Thursday, July 14, 2016

Council Preview: Greensward, Rallings, Gun Violence, More

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 11:39 AM


The Memphis City Council will be busy Tuesday reviewing an array of topics like Mayor Jim Strickland’s proposal for Overton Park and the hiring of Michael Rallings as director of the Memphis Police Department.

Council business typically slows after the passage of the year’s budget. The council passed a budget early this year in what was probably record time. While meetings were shorter in the direct aftermath, this Tuesday will be packed hit several hot issues.

Let’s take them as they’re listed in the council’s committee schedule.

8: 30 a.m. Personnell, Intergovernmental, & Annexation Committee:

• A resolution requesting the mayor to strongly consider the appointment of interim Director Michael Rallings for director of police.

Support for Rallings has been high in Memphis, especially after his successful interaction with protesters on the Hernando-DeSoto Bridge Sunday that ended peacefully and with no injuries.

Hiring Rallings for the job full time was one of the demands of some of the protestors who asked for the action during a meeting with Mayor Strickland, Rallings, and other leaders Tuesday at Greater Imani Christian Church.

Strickland said he, too, is impressed with Rallings but promised voters on the campaign trail that he’d conduct a national search, which is now underway. The results that search — the top contenders for the job — will likely be published Friday.

Protesters, though, were disappointed that Strickland would not call off the search and hire Rallings immediately.

• Discussion of the referendum ordinance requiring city employees to live and resident within the city limits of Memphis.

This would put a question to Memphis voters in November: Should new Memphis city employees have to live in the city?

If approved, the move would reverse a 2010 referendum that allowed city employees to live anywhere in Shelby County.

But Martavius Jones, the new ordinance’s sponsor, points to research that shows that around 60 percent of Memphis city employees live outside the city. That, he said, is not a sustainable tax base model.

However, leaders of city divisions — especially police and fire — say upping requirements for new employees would only make it harder for them to recruit talented employees.

10 a.m. Economic Development & Tourism Committee

• MWBE Task Force Recommendations

Earlier this year, council members established a task force to help increase the amount of city contracts going to companies owned by minorities and women.

That task force, organized by council member Janis Fullilove, will report their findings to council Tuesday.

11 a.m. Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee

• Discussion on engaging our communities in reducing gun violence
• Resolution creating a crime prevention and intervention task force

Crime and gun violence are hot topics nationally. Also, the Memphis murder rate has soared this year. It continued growing this week with another gun-related murder, even after Rallings called for 30 days of “no killing.”

These discussions could likely have plenty of overlap. They come after protests against police violence on young black men.

If there’s any discussion of reforming the city criminal justice system, it could start here.

1:30 p.m. Executive Session

• Discussion of Mayor’s Strickland’s proposal for uses of Overton Park

Strickland proposed a plan last week that would eliminate Memphis Zoo parking on the Greensward. That plan would create new parking in the zoo’s existing lot, on North Parkway, and in a lot now inhabited by the city’s General Services complex.

The council will discuss setting that proposal into law Tuesday. However, council chairman Kemp Conrad said this week that the proposal might be first set in a resolution, which only takes one vote to approve.

In two weeks, and after some fine tuning, the resolution's language might be set into a ordinance the council has already prepared. An ordinance sets ideas deeper into city law, taking much more effort (and more votes) to change than a resolution. So, the move would be more permanent and harder to change.

The sticking point seems to be how to shuttle zoo visitors to and from the lot that would be created in the General Services area, which is on the south east portion of the park.

Zoo officials say the lot would not be worth it to them unless they can run trams through the park’s Old Forest. However, the state designated the forest as a state natural area. As such, no motorized vehicles are allowed.

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