One of the biggest concerns voiced in the current discussion of the Metro Charter Resolution that has passed the County Commission, and will be addressed in the Memphis City Council on September 15th, is the “decision” to go with appointed Charter Commissioners rather than elected Charter Commissioners.
First, TCA 7-2-101 sets forth that:
(B) The resolution shall either:
(i) Authorize the county mayor to appoint ten (10) commissioners, subject to confirmation by the county governing body, and authorize the mayor of the principal city to appoint five (5) commissioners, subject to confirmation by the city governing body; or
(ii) Provide that an election shall be held to select members of the metropolitan government charter commission;
Both options are clearly available. Later in the same area the law notes:
(F) When the resolutions provide for an election to select members of the metropolitan government charter commission, copies of the resolution shall be certified by the clerks of the governing bodies to the county election commission, together with certificates as to the fact and date of adoption, and then an election shall be held as provided in § 7-2-102;
So what does 7-2-102 call for?
(a) No less than forty-six (46) days nor more than sixty (60) days after the adoption of a consolidation resolution by the governing bodies of a county and of its principal city, which resolution providing for an election of the members of a metropolitan government charter commission, it shall be the duty of the county election commission to hold a special election to elect members of the charter commission.
( (b) The cost of the election shall be paid out of county funds.
( (c) The ten (10) candidates receiving the highest total vote in the election shall be elected as members of the metropolitan government charter commission.
( (d) Any qualified voter of the county shall be eligible for election as a member of the charter commission.
( (e) ( The deadline for filing nominating petitions for candidates for the charter commission is twelve o’clock (12:00) noon of the fortieth day before the election.
Based on this information, the question becomes, which do you prefer?
While an election for Commissioners still SOUNDS better, the all call nature of the election, as provided by state law, means that people could be clustered in certain areas. There is NO PROVISION in the election section of the law for districts to be drawn, and no requirement that people be from a diverse cross-section of the community.
However, for appointed Commissions, the circumstance is quite different.
(C) It is the legislative intent that the persons appointed to the charter commission shall be broadly representative of all areas of the county and principal city and that every effort shall be made to include representatives from various political, social, and economic groups within the county and principal municipality; (TCA 7-2-101)
So, there are two things at play here. Under the appointment provisions there are to be 15 Commissioners, 10 from the entirety of the County and 5 from the principal city, and they are to be from a diverse cross-section of the community. Under the election provision there are to be 10 people selected from an all-call special election with no districts, and no guarantee that the Commissioners are in any way representative of the community at large.
Again I ask, “Which do you prefer?”
No process is perfect, but in my opinion, the drafters of the resolution did right by the people of the City and County by choosing the appointment process rather than the election process. Less is left to chance. There is a greater likelihood of geographic, racial and socio-economic diversity, all things that are of critical importance for our community.
I understand people’s reservations, but looking at the entirety of the law, there are no shenanigans, this was simply the better choice.