VOL. 132 | NO. 233 | Thursday, November 23, 2017
Council Moves Toward Alcohol on Main Street
By Michael Waddell
Memphis City Council members delayed a final vote Tuesday, Nov. 21, on an ordinance that sets out options for the removal of statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis in city parks, but moved forward on a proposal to allow open alcohol containers and consumption on Main Street.
An ordinance to amend Chapter 4, Section 14, of the city Code of Ordinances to allow for open containers and alcoholic beverages on Main Street got the go-ahead for further analysis after the proposal was presented at the Economic Development and Tourism Committee Tuesday morning.
The Proposed Open Container Amendment would allow open containers, plastic only, from Crump Boulevard to AW Willis Drive, essentially running along the trolley line on Main Street.
A recent trip to New Orleans for several city council members was the inspiration for idea.
“We went down there really to get an idea of how they are keeping Bourbon Street and the entire French Quarter safe,” said Martavius Jones, chairman of the committee. “The economic activity that was taking place on Bourbon Street, just based on the volume of people that were there, I think that’s something we need to replicate here in Memphis, with greater activity and vibrancy Downtown.”
Jones wants to see a trolley night on more nights than just the last Friday of the month.
He hopes merchants on Beale Street do not see it as competition.
“One of the things I found is that all of the merchants in the French Quarter, at least how I perceived they looked at things, is they looked at how they could make it a bigger pie that benefits everyone,” Jones said. “I think that’s philosophy we should adopt in Memphis.”
Because it is a revision of an ordinance, it will take three readings to pass.
Given the chances for people drinking to cause a nuisance, council members will gather data from the Memphis Police Department, community partners and area restaurants to further assess the merits and potential pitfalls of the proposal.
Meanwhile, the council delayed, with no discussion, the final vote on an ordinance involving the removal of Confederate statues from city parks. The ordinance required the administration of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland to have a plan by Nov. 21 to remove of the monument to Forrest – a Confederate general, slave trader and Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard – and Davis, president of the Confederacy. But the ordinance anticipated that the city would have made its case before a state administrative law judge on the matter by then. That hearing has been delayed until next month.
The city is pursuing its claim that it does not need the approval of the Tennessee Historical Commission to remove Forrest’s monument in particular.
“The Tennessee attorney general, at the request of the governor, has asked us and the (Sons of Confederate Veterans) and descendants of Nathan Bedford Forrest to engage in mediation to see if an agreement can be reached as to where the statue can be relocated by agreement,” said Memphis City Council attorney Allan Wade.
Two mediators have been selected, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Janice Holder and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Mickey Barker, and the mediation will take place in early December before the next council meeting.
The hearing on the matter before an administrative judge has been delayed to Dec. 20 in Nashville, and the city is appealing that date seeking an earlier one.
In other business Tuesday, the council approved a resolution to adopt a community redevelopment plan for the Binghampton area, which has been categorized as “a slum area, a blighted area, or an area in which there is a shortage of housing affordable to residents of low or moderate income, including the elderly, or a combination thereof.”
The council also voted in favor of six resolutions totaling $6.9 million in capital funding place holders for the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA).
“The resolutions enable us to provide the local match money for our federal apportionments and any potential capital grants that we’re able to obtain in the coming year,” said MATA CEO Gary Rosenfeld.
The funding would be used for things like buying new fixed-route buses, rail vehicles, and renovations and planning for a new operations and maintenance facility, if the appropriate grants are secured.
Also Tuesday, a referendum ordinance that would put to voters a proposal to repeal the 2008 city charter amendment allowing ranked-choice voting in city council elections passed on the second of three readings. Several citizens spoke against the idea of repealing something that was previously voted in by a 71 percent majority vote yet had never been implemented.
The state elections coordinator has told the Shelby County Election Commission that ranked-choice voting is not permitted in Tennessee because there are no guidelines or rules in place to regulate it.
In executive session earlier Tuesday, council members discussed a pending sale of properties that owners are delinquent on paying city taxes.
Steve Barlow, staff attorney for the city of Memphis, said there are more than 4,500 properties that are current on county taxes but delinquent by about $8 million on city taxes.
Earlier this year, a test group of 154 properties was selected to put into a tax sale for February 2018. Back taxes owed on the properties was $594,000. Within six months, the number of delinquent properties shrank from 154 to 56, and the city took in $285,000 in back-tax payments.
Barlow said he hopes to recoup most of the city taxes owed on properties that are current on county taxes.