Thursday, February 3, 2011

Council Delays Action on MCS Charter

Posted By on Thu, Feb 3, 2011 at 5:51 PM

Myron Lowery
  • Myron Lowery
In an unusual one-topic meeting, the Memphis City voted Thursday to delay for at least a week its final action supporting the Memphis City School board's decision to surrender its charter.

The council acted in response to pending state legislation in Nashville aimed at avoiding or delaying a merger of the city and Shelby County school systems. The March 8th Memphis referendum will go on as scheduled, according to Council chairman Myron Lowery and council attorney Allan Wade.

The council voted to recess until Thursday, February 9th, but also served notice that it could come back on a day's notice before that if anything happens in Nashville that might be seen as hostile.

The Council previously voted to support the MCS board's action, but had not finalized that vote. The meeting Thursday would have done that if the council had not instead gone into recess.

The outcome satisfied Mayor A C Wharton, who attended the council meeting.

"The last thing we want is to be characterized in Nashville as a bunch of trigger-happy politicians," he said.

The city council and state legislature are playing cat and mouse, each watching to see what the other does day to day on the schools merger issue. The council felt there has been some compromise on the length of the transition period should the referendum pass. That, coupled with assurances that the referendum would be for Memphians only, was enough to buy more time.

Councilman Shea Flinn said "a tremendous amount has changed" on the details of a bill pushed by Sen. Mark Norris, and that "things are going in a positive direction."

But there was a little bit of drama in the meeting anyway. Flinn first proposed that there be one-day or three-day delays. Both of those votes failed 5-5. Then Councilman Harold Collins proposed the one-week delay and it passed 9-1.

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