Happy to Oblige

On Facebook Tuesday, Councilwoman Wanda Halbert reposted a note that she originally posted on August 18th. The note, entitled “The Truth Hurts” dealt with several things including the Metro Charter Resolution.

At the end of the note, Councilwoman Halbert states:

I may simply be interpreting the information I’ve read incorrectly (that’s usually not a problem for me).

In the interest of furthering the discussion, I’m happy to try and clear up some of the things that Councilwoman Halbert may have misinterpreted. This is not intended to be a beat down, or anything like that. This is an honest attempt to address the concerns expressed.

First, Councilwoman Halbert raises some questions about the how and why of the Metropolitan Government provisions in Tennessee Law:

a) While Memphis would give up its existence and government, smaller cities (Germantown, Millington, Bartlett, Collierville, Millington) their services and elected officials are not affected. While serving as part of the metro population they will maintain their cities and independant governments. (Slide 1 page 10)

State Law is fairly clear on this. TCA 7-2-101 states that

The commission may be created by the adoption of a consolidation resolution by the governing body of a county and by the adoption of a substantially similar resolution by the governing body of the principal city in the county;

Memphis, as the principal city in Shelby County, has to agree with the County to explore the option. Smaller cities in Shelby County CAN be involved in the process in accordance with TCA 7-2-107

After a charter commission has been created, any smaller city within the county may by action of its legislative body appoint a representative to consult with the charter commission concerning the terms upon which the functions of such smaller city may be included in the proposed consolidation. Any terms proposed by the charter commission with respect to the smaller city shall be filed and published separately as an appendix to the metropolitan charter proposed with respect to the principal city, and shall be submitted independently in a special referendum election for ratification or rejection by the voters of the smaller city and by the voters of the county outside the smaller city in a manner similar to that provided in §§ 7-2-105 and 7-2-106 with respect to the proposed metropolitan charter for the principal city.

Memphis is not giving up its existence. Just like the Nashville Metro/Davidson Co. government didn’t make Nashville go away, this won’t make Memphis go away. Government as we currently know it WILL be fundamentally changed, both in the City and the County. However, we don’t know what shape that government will take until a Charter Commission is empanelled and a determination is made on the roles and size of legislative bodies, executives, etc. At that point, if people don’t like it, they don’t have to vote for it.

b) While Memphis will not have a voice in government at the table in the small cities, they will have a seat at the table and a voice in decisions about new (our) government. (Slide 1 page 10)

I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying. Are you saying that Memphis should have a seat on Germantown’s legislative body, or Bartlett’s legislative body?

Everyone in Memphis, Bartlett, Millington, Collierville, and Germantown is a resident of Shelby County. Currently, there are members of the Shelby County Commission that represent these areas, even though all of these municipalities have their own legislative bodies. I have 4 City Council members that represent me in city government (my district, and 3 Super-district members), and 3 County Commission members that represent me in the County.

Memphis will have a seat (in fact, probably a majority of the seats) at the table of the resulting government, just as we do in the County Commission now (citizens of Memphis currently serve on the body). But the resulting County government can no more demand a seat in Germantown’s government, any more than Bartlett could demand a seat on Memphis City Council.

I would invite you to clarify this in the comments or via email using the form here

c) Because there is clearly a desire by some to keep schools separated, in an effort to move forward with consolidation, they (school boards) are elected by the people, they will remain in place and decide if districts merge, i.e. the schools will stay separated.

Merging the schools is a poison pill that would likely kill the draft charter. Because this is such a fundamental change for all the citizens of Shelby County, it is reasonable to expect that individuals who live in the “General Services District” may wish to maintain control of their schools. This doesn’t mean it won’t happen eventually.

Most importantly, while lots of folks have said that the schools are off the table, until the Charter Commission is empanelled, NOTHING is off the table. I think the phrase “Off the table” functionally means “a bad idea politically”, or at least, that’s my interpretation of the use of the phrase.

Finally, the last section of the note:

For some reason, it appears a decision may have already been made to support the first – county mayor “appointing” 10 members to the charter commission and the city mayor (possibly pro-tem) will appoint 5 members. The county representatives must live outside Memphis territory, city representatives “who are county residents” cannot live outside its territory.

So – – – – the county residents with a little more than 200,000 residents will have 10 votes and the city residents with a little more than 600,000 residents will have 5 votes. Gulp! .

Umm, no. As I said before, citizens of Memphis, Bartlett, Collierville, Millington and Germantown, as well as people that live in unincorporated areas of the County are all County residents. The County Mayor has the power to appoint people from ANYWHERE within his jurisdiction, which includes all of the areas I mentioned above.

Thinking this through to its final conclusion, it is reasonable to expect that between the County and City Mayor’s appointments there will be more people from Memphis on the panel.

That said, some on the County Commission, particularly Commissioner Bunker, have argued that the County’s appointments should include MORE people from outlying areas. Commissioner Bunker is within his rights to hold that opinion, and can vote against people at will in the confirmation process, but ultimately, it’s up to the County Mayor to nominate individuals to fill the 10 seats, and as a result, up to him, with the advice and consent of the County Commission, to determine the appropriate mix of individuals in those 10 seats between the urban, sub-urban, and rural areas of the county.

In conclusion, I hope this is, at the very least, some food for thought in the upcoming discussion of the Metro Charter Resolution. Additionally, I hope you take this post in the spirit of which it is written, as an honest attempt to address the concerns raised.

Thank you for your service to the people of the 4th Council district. I look forward to a spirited debate going forward.

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