VOL. 132 | NO. 206 | Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Monuments, Elections, TDZ Expansion All Before Council
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members take a third and final vote Tuesday, Oct. 17, on an ordinance directing the administration to act on “immediate” removal of Confederate monuments from two city parks.
The Memphis City Council could vote to remove Confederate monuments, abolish ranked-choice voting and expand a Downtown Tourism Development Zone. (Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
The council is also scheduled to take the first of three votes on a citywide referendum that would abolish ranked-choice voting before it is used for the first time in the 2019 Memphis elections.
Council members delayed a final vote two weeks ago on the Confederate monuments ordinance that specifically deals with monuments of Confederacy president Jefferson Davis and Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland made his case last week, asking the Tennessee Historical Commission for a state waiver allowing for the removal of the Forrest statue. The commission rejected a request by Strickland and the city to vote on that waiver last Friday in Athens, Tennessee. But the body did vote to refer the city’s waiver request to an administrative law judge for a November hearing.
The council ordinance up for third reading directs the administration to “exercise all rights, remedies and actions available to the city to effect such removal.”
The ranked-choice voting issue is scheduled for discussion at the council’s 2:10 p.m. executive session and an earlier 10:45 a.m. committee session before it is voted on, likely as part of the consent agenda. RCV would eliminate the need for later runoff elections in races for the council’s seven single-member district seats where no candidate gets a simple majority of the votes cast.
Voters would be able to choose more than one candidate and rank them in order of preference. Those second and third choices would be tallied for rival contenders toward a majority vote if initial voting comes up short of a majority where a candidate gets at least 50 percent of the votes cast.
The RCV option was approved in a 2008 charter amendment by voters, but at the time, election officials said the touchscreen voting machines could not handle such an option.
Shelby County elections administrator Linda Phillips said earlier this year that the machines could do a version of RCV if the names of candidates in a race are listed three times side by side on the ballot layout.
Council member Edmund Ford Jr. is calling for the effective repeal of RCV by placing a referendum before voters to ban the use of ranked-choice voting.
The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, for live coverage and updates from committee sessions earlier in the council day at City Hall.
In other action Tuesday, council members will review the administration’s plan to amend the Downtown Tourism Development Zone to include the city riverfront and Mud Island in the zone. Part of sales tax generated in the zone helps fund improvements within the zone. The discussion is at the 2:10 p.m. executive session. The administration is taking the amendment to the Tennessee Building Commission for approval later this year.
The item isn’t currently on the council’s agenda for a vote, but could be added at the executive session.
The council is also set to vote Tuesday on a resolution that would allow the city to use revenue from the Beale Street cover charge to pay some security costs. The item was delayed at the Oct. 3 council meeting after a Beale Street Task Force recommended continuing some kind of cover charge to enter Beale Street on spring and summer Saturday nights after 10 p.m. But some council members have called for abolishing any cover charge.
The council also sets a Nov. 7 hearing date and vote on three resolutions that would reactivate the Community Redevelopment Agency and enlarge its role in Binghampton and Uptown redevelopment plans.
Council members also will review an allocation of $4.4 million from the $30 million federal Choice Neighborhoods grant the city received for redevelopment of the South City area that includes, but is not limited to, the former Cleaborn and Foote Homes public housing developments.
The $4.4 million allocation would be used for a homeowner exterior improvement effort, a commercial property exterior improvement program, and the development of an early childhood education center, grocery store and a Girls Inc. center in South City.
Another $300,000 of the federal funding would go for an improvement of L.E. Brown Park at 617 S. Orleans St. in Cleaborn Pointe at Heritage Landing. That is the mixed-use mixed-income development on the site that once was Cleaborn Homes.
The council reviews at a 1 p.m. committee session five resolutions for $6 million in city matching funds for capital projects of the Memphis Area Transit Authority. That includes $1 million toward land acquisition and architectural engineering for a new operations and maintenance facility. It would replace the longtime MATA headquarters on Levee Road in North Memphis. The circa-1970s center was built atop a landfill and has been gradually sinking for several decades.
At a 11:20 a.m. committee session, council members review buying property next to Rodney Baber Park in Frayser for $120,000 as part of a federal resiliency grant to make better use of the park that is also tied into the Wolf River Greenway project. What is known as the Monsarrat property is 61.13 acres east of Rodney Baber Park.