Last Word: A New Council Member, Law Without Signature and Corker Down Under

By Bill Dries

The Memphis City Council should be back up to full strength by the time Tuesday becomes Wednesday. Filling the Super District 9 seat left vacant by the resignation earlier this month of Philip Spinosa to join the leadership of the Greater Memphis Chamber is on the council’s agenda Tuesday afternoon – the last item on the agenda. But the council usually skips around.

An open council seat always roils the political waters and that is especially true in an election year. In this case, four contenders who lost in the May county primaries have pulled petitions to run when this seat goes on the Aug. 2 ballot. And three of the four want the interim appointment.

The Memphis City Council should be up to its full 13 members Tuesday after making an interim appointment to an open seat in Super District 9.

Another consideration is that this probably won’t be the only council seat to be filled this year. Three other sitting council members – Edmund Ford Jr., Janis Fullilove and Bill Morrison -- won their primaries for county office in March and could exit the council with about a year and two months left on their city term of office if they win. On the other hand, all three are term-limited, as things stand now, from seeking another term on the council in 2019 should they lose in August. Then again, (I could use a third hand here) in November Memphis voters decide a referendum that would extend city term limits for the mayor and council to three consecutive terms and if approved by voters that would allow the six term-limited council members including Morrison, Ford and Fullilove to run for re-election in 2019.

But we’re getting ahead of Tuesday. The council’s first decision isn’t who but how long. Do seven council members want to appoint someone to the Super District seat who will run in August for the rest of the term. Or do they want to appoint someone who will serve on an interim basis only. Getting the appointment is an advantage in running for the seat but it’s not a guarantee. Ask Henry Hooper and Madeleine Cooper Taylor who got interim appointments to the body only to be unseated by challengers in the regular city elections that followed – Hooper by Fullilove – in 2007 as part of the largest turnover of seats on the body – nine -- since the mayor-council form of government began in 1968.

The council vote will probably be with little discussion and most likely a process of a quick roll call to see who gets seven votes – maybe taking several ballots with commitments by some to vote for a contender through one or two ballots but going in the direction of the top two or three beyond that. Some council observers active in this county government election year are already painting the appointment as an indication of how strong business interests are on the council as city and county leaders explore changes in the local pursuit of economic development projects.

The appointee will join the body just in time for final votes on the budget and city property tax rate in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will allow a sanctuary city-immigration law to become law without his signature he announced Monday in Nashville. 

Here is the rundown of who is up for the appointment. And here is the rest of the council day at City Hall. Join us @tdnpols,, for live coverage of both.

In Nashville Monday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced he would allow a bill that bars sanctuary city status in Tennessee and requires local governments to cooperate with federal immigration agents without warrants or probable cause being required of the federal agents to become law without his signature. It takes effect January 1. Haslam acknowledged problems with the law but also said it probably won’t change much for local governments.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office announced later in the day that how this affects its work will be guided by the legal advice of the county attorney’s office. And there is a difference in what sheriff’s deputies do on the street and what is done in the Shelby County Jail, which is run by the SCSO. Here’s a recap of that.

More on three of the top contenders for the Republican nomination for Governor coming to town last month and telling a theater full of people -- including advocates of a local pre-K effort -- that they don't support universal prekindergarten. We talked with leaders of the local pre-K drive on "Behind The Headlines" who indicated they are more than prepared to go this without state money even though they think there is no doubt that pre-k works. 

Roll Call on outgoing U.S. Sen. Bob Corker turning down a White House offer to be ambassador to Australia.

One of the three Links chapters that form the Bluff City Cluster marked its 25th anniversary this month. The River City chapter is currently working with voter outreach and to sustain historically black colleges and universities.

In our Health Care Emphasis:

LeMoyne-Owen College, the city's only historically black college, partners with UT Health Science Center to move LOC students into UT’s nursing program. This is as health care systems move toward more hiring of Bachelor of Science Nursing degree holders. The director of LeMoyne-Owen’s career pathways initiative came to the south Memphis campus from being in recruitment and programming at the UT health science center in Knoxville. Charlie Folsom tell us through that experience he saw a way to start with the nursing program to address the lack of students from historically black colleges and universities at UTHSC.

Another UTHSC partnership, this time through its West Institute for Cancer Research with the National Institutes of Health, has produced a cancer genome atlas – maps of key changes in the genome from 33 types of cancer. There are 20 different institutions collaborating on this work which is being made public in its entirety. The mapping has led to re-categorizing cancer by cellular pathways instead of organ type.

Salad in Church Health's community kitchen among the features of this year's Westberg Symposium on parish nursing programs.

The parish nurse movement in health care was one of the factors in the founding of Church Health here in Memphis. This month, Church Health hosted a symposium at Crosstown Concourse that drew more than 200 international parish nurses to talk specifically about nursing outreach programs in the faith community including those here. Parish nurses are described as those who make sure nothing falls through the cracks from home health plans to preventative health care and testing.

The Explore Bike Share program featuring 60 stops outfitted with more than 600 bikes opens in Memphis Wednesday.

In advance of Wednesday's roll out of Explore Bike Share, some thoughts from C. Richard Cotton on what bicycle culture looks like elsewhere.

Most of the local government policies across Tennessee to see and otherwise get access to public government records require ID to prove the person seeking the records is a Tennessee resident. So found a statewide audit by the Tennessee Coalition of Open Government.

The same audit found only 5 percent of the city and county agencies and bodies allowed those requesting public records to take a cellphone or iPhone snap of them. And about half of the agencies specifically ban use of any kind of personal equipment including iPhones.

Casino revenue numbers for April in Mississippi show a record month on the Gulf Coast and a drop in Tunica and other river casinos.

And the Jackson Free Press on choosing a site for a national civil rights park.