Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Memphis Annexation Is Still Up in the Air

Posted By on Wed, Nov 22, 2006 at 4:00 AM

The Memphis City Council has delayed annexation of two areas for at least one year, giving homeowners a tax reprieve and forcing school planners to scramble to find answers to overcrowding in the Berryhill and Bridgewater areas near Cordova.

The key vote Tuesday was a 5-5 deadlock on a procedural motion that bumped the timeline for annexation beyond January 1st, 2007, the effective date in the original proposal. Council members will vote December 5th on whether to take in Bridgewater and Southeast Extended, with a total of 36,000 residents. The new effective date would be January 1st, 2008.

But approval is uncertain because of recusals by two council members, citizen opposition, and a “no-recommendation” stance by Mayor Willie Herenton. The mayor did not attend the session but sent his chief administrative officer Keith McGee. Council members Joe Brown and Carol Chumney unsuccessfully tried to smoke out the mayor’s position and his level of confidence in the optimistic financial projections for the annexation.

Coincidentally, the city got some good news from Fitch Ratings which restored an A+ mark to its bonded debt. Annexation is a gamble that in the long run taxes and fees will exceed the cost of providing services.

If there was a silver lining in the council’s action it was the patient and civil tone of the meeting (led by chairman TaJuan Stout Mitchell), which ended with a final speaker having his say at 6:30 p.m. Opponents of annexation outnumbered supporters, but both sides made reasoned arguments and many took pains to say that Memphis is in a difficult spot and will probably complete the annexations next year.

In other action, the council enthusiastically endorsed a living wage proposal that will apply to certain city contracts. The vote was 11-1, and council members gave living-wage supporters a standing ovation after it was recorded. The biracial group of proponents included several ministers and dozens of people carrying red-and-white signs. — John Branston

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