Transparency Doesn’t Follow You Around Waiting for You to Notice

In yesterday’s Executive Session of the Memphis City Council (audio link) the resolution establishing a Charter Commission was discussed. For those of you following along, the Shelby Co. Commission approved the resolution on Monday by a vote of 9-2 with one abstention.

The City Council decided to hold the resolution until their meeting on September 15th so that some of the concerns of the members could be addressed. I’ll have more on what those concerns were specifically, but the issue that seemed to get the most play was the charge that too many decisions had been predetermined and that this means the process hasn’t been transparent.

To be fair, I didn’t go to any of the listening tour meetings, and apparently, neither did many of our City Council members. I wasn’t involved in the drafting of the resolution, though I have read it and researched the law it references. For that matter, I haven’t paid much attention to the website that Mayor Wharton has had up since March (possibly earlier) on the subject. But just because I either wasn’t or haven’t been involved in many of the structural steps to bring this resolution forward, doesn’t mean that the process hasn’t been transparent. It means that up until recently, I haven’t been paying attention.

There seems to be a persistent belief in this community that if even one person feels they are excluded from the process, that the process has been somehow opaque. This is simply not the case.

So far, there are three, AND ONLY THREE THINGS that have happened with the concept of a Metro Government in Shelby Co.

1. There has been a listening tour attended by, including 15 Town Hall meetings across the County.
2. A resolution to establish a Metro Charter Commission has been drafted for the County Commission and adopted.
3. A nearly identical resolution has been drafted and introduced to the Memphis City Council.

That’s all.

The provisions used in the resolution are consistent with the Metropolitan Government section of the Tennessee Code. This section sets the groundwork for such an endeavor.

The decisions on how, within the limits of Tennessee Law, the Charter Commission will be set up is up to the drafter of the resolution, but since this resolution had to pass BOTH the City and County government, of course there had to be a decision made on many things including appointed versus elected charter members.

That’s not opacity, that’s part of the process of drafting a resolution binding two governments into a Metro Charter Commission and being mindful of all the circumstances surrounding the process, including the date upon which to hold the election.

At the end of the day, this process has been as transparent up to now as possible. Charges that it hasn’t are simply not true. Knowing that something is happening but making a choice to either not participate, or educate yourself on the issues is not a lack of transparency, it’s a lack of intellectual curiosity. The process shouldn’t be blamed for that, but it certainly is good cover for those who chose not to participate.

0 Replies to “Transparency Doesn’t Follow You Around Waiting for You to Notice”

  1. Hey Vib,
    I just wanted to mention that decisions have been made.
    -Schools are off the table
    -Appointed Charter Commission members

    Also wanted to note that listening tours are different than townhalls. Listening tours are for voters to vent general sentiment, not explaining to the public how something as complex as consolidation will actually take place. Electing Charter Commission Members is better, even if it means delaying consolidation for a few years.

    Do you know anything about this. Will the reserve areas of the cities in Shelby County remain under the control of those cities or will they fall under the control of the new metro government? This is pretty important since it affects expansion/annexation of the cities and how development will take place around I-269.

    1. PD,

      The appointed charter members is something I addressed. The law provides that the authors of the resolution can choose the appointed or elected options. (third from the last paragraph) That’s part of the decision to write a resolution involving two governments in a charter commission. (I know, I’m being petty this morning)

      Lowery says schools are off the table. AC may say that schools are off the table. But NEITHER resolution says that schools are off the table. That said, you and I both know that if schools are included, the county will balk. From a political standpoint schools are off the table, but nothing in either resolution would keep any resulting charter commission from addressing schools if they wanted to.

      As a general rule, I agree that electing charter commissioners is better. The issue here is that the drafters of the resolution are trying to ensure that the vote on the charter comes up on the same date as the 2010 November general election, rather than a special election that would have far lower turnout.

      Reserve areas – I may have something for you on that. Will email separately.

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