Thursday, November 1, 2018

Ed Helms Joins Fight to Save Instant Runoff Voting

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 2:40 PM

Actor and comedian Ed Helms jumped into the Memphis election fray with a video criticizing local politicians for trying to eliminate instant runoff voting.  

Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence appeared in a similar video last month.

Here's what the local Save Instant Runoff Voting said about the Helms video:

"Ed Helms, comedian and actor, borrows the voice of Memphians who support voting against all the November (referendums).

"With just five days to go, we’re in a race to stop the city council from tricking voters into undoing the will of the people. We already passed Instant Runoff Voting, and this is our chance to stop politicians from overturning the voters."

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Memphis Pets of the Week (Nov. 1-7)

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 2:23 PM

Each week, the Flyer will feature adoptable dogs and cats from Memphis Animal Services. All photos are credited to Memphis Pets Alive. More pictures can be found on the Memphis Pets Alive Facebook page.

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UPDATED: TVA Meeting to Focus on Coal Ash Ponds

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 1:10 PM

A coal ash pond at TVA's Allen Fossil Plant.
  • A coal ash pond at TVA's Allen Fossil Plant.

UPDATE: Scott Banbury, Conservation Programs Coordinator for the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club, said little notice was given about Thursday's Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) meeting and "the public was given no opportunity to express themselves."

Here's his statement in full:

"TVA seems to believe that this state ordered Environmental Investigation Plan is somehow separate from the state-ordered Remedial Investigation plan in regards to the arsenic and other pollutants that are leaking from their ash ponds and potentially threatening the Memphis Sand Aquifer.

They (TVA) are working on a new (National Environmental Policy Act) Environmental Impact Statement (that I thought would be discussed tonight, but wasn't), where in they will propose digging up and re-interring (shipping elsewhere) all of the ash in the east pond (and maybe the west pond) that might pose a risk to our drinking water, but they (TVA) have gone out of their way to keep these things separate and leave it to us (Sierra and Protect Our Aquifer) to make the connections between the different 'studies' underway.

This is inherently unfair as neither the Sierra Club, nor Protect Our Aquifer, has the staff to match TVA in this regard. TVA has multiple public relations professionals and other staff to work these topics, while Sierra and Protect Our Aquifer have only me and (Protect Our Aquifer president Ward Archer).

The public was given no opportunity to express themselves. There was little to no public notice about the meeting. The only public notice was put out by Sierra and Protect Our Aquifer."

ORIGINAL POST: The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will host an open-house-style meeting Thursday evening so the public can view and comment on an upcoming environmental investigation of the utility's coal ash ponds here.

For years, TVA burned coal to fire at the now-shuttered Allen Fossil Plant, the city's energy source. Ash from that coal was stored in two ponds at the Allen site.

In 2014, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made new rules on the safe disposal of coal ash, from coal-fired power plants. In 2015, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) enforced the federal rule here, mandating a review of TVA's coal ash ponds at seven sites across the state.

TVA will review its plan for the Allen site with the public on Thursday evening.

Scott Brooks, a TVA spokesman, talked to us about what people can expect at the meeting (and what they shouldn't expect). He also talked about three different environmental testing processes happening at the Allen site now. — Toby Sells

Scott Brooks: We have three operating processes that either are or soon will be going on out at (the site of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Allen Fossil Plant).

What will be covered in the meeting is an environmental investigation plan (EIP), which is basically a brand new process that we’re doing at seven of our coal sites in Tennessee under a (Tennessee Department of Environment and Conversation, TDEC) order.

That includes two sites where we don’t even have plants anymore. At John Sevier and Watts Barr, we’ve torn those plants down, but we still store coal ash on those sites. 

This order from TDEC is a very comprehensive investigation we’re going to be doing at all seven sites.

Allen will be the seventh of seven open houses. This is the last one.

Memphis Flyer: When did TDEC make the order?

SB: 2015. It was essentially their enforcement of the (Disposals of of Coal Combustion Residuals) rule.

What we’re going to be looking at is the potential impacts and risks of CCR — coal combustion residuals — at all seven of those sites, including Allen. The investigation is going to be very comprehensive.

It’ll include everything from groundwater, to bugs, and fish, and getting a good solid characteristic of the coal ash out there. How much is there? Is it, indeed, confined to where we think and expect that it will be? Basically, we’ll be letting science give us answers to a lot of the speculation and rhetoric that’s been out there for our coal operations for years.

MF: Interest in the coal ash ponds here at Allen is really heightened by the discovery of toxins close to one of them and the potential for those toxins to leak into the Memphis Sand Aquifer.

SB: We have three separate processes [going on at the Allen site]. One is this environmental investigation.

The second is…what are we going to do about the arsenic? We have a very good idea now about the characteristics of where and how deep and where that arsenic contamination is. So, now TDEC just has to give us approval for how they want us to remove it.

That’s separate from (the public open house on Thursday evening). That will be coming, hopefully, in short order. That’ll involve some kind of removal. It could be pump and treat; that’s one option. But that’s in TDEC’s hand right now. There will be a board (Thursday) night explaining where that process is.

The third is…what do we do with the coal ash? We’ll be doing a separate NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process, which is looking at the potential environmental impacts of all of the options over there. The main ones being, closure in place, closure by removal, and no action. When you’re doing NEPA, “no action” is usually your baseline. If we do nothing, here’s what could happen or won’t happen.

So, we’ll be looking at both the east and west ash ponds and the chemical pond out there for (closure by) removal is or (closure) in place. That’ll kick off…the date’s been a little fluid but it should start in the next month or two. Again, that will be a public process. We’ll put something out there on looking at the options and getting feedback all along that process.

MF: What else?

SB: The way this meeting will be set up and the way the other six have operated is that it’s an open-house format. That means no presentation, no microphone. You walk around and we’ll have about three dozen posters and experts who can speak to every part of the EIP and the process.

The posters will include what we’ve already done and what we’re proposing to do. Again, there will be about three dozens of them with experts on hand to answer questions. It’s more of an informal conversation format. That’s why we’re calling it an open house.

MF: So, it won’t really be a time for citizens to stand up and voice their opinions in a public meeting format.

SB: We do want to know what people think. But what we need is for it to be captured in writing. They can do that at the meeting or they can do that right now online. On TVA’s website, there’s a TDEC order page with all the comment periods that are still open. On Allen, the public comments period started I think on October 15th was the open date for 45 days.

They can go online right now and view the draft EIP as well. It’s not necessarily light reading. It’s meant to be very comprehensive and very detailed. Again, we want science to tell the story at all seven of the sites in Tennessee.

What will come out of this is, after the comment period, TDEC will take those comments and see if anything needs to be tweaked in the proposed plan and, then, they’ll give us a final version. Then, they’ll say “start your work.” There will be about an 18-month testing investigation process where we’ll put all the wells in we need to put in and do the sampling we need to do. A lot of the sampling will be done multiple times so that you catch seasonal changes and weather changes and things like that.

After the 18-month period, there will be another comment period. Once all the results are in and if something needs to be corrected, then the public has an opportunity to weigh in whatever that correction looks like.

Lyft to Provide Free, Discounted Rides on Election Day

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 9:06 AM

  • Lyft

Lyft will offer free and discounted to the polls on Election Day, Tuesday, November 6th in Memphis and across the country.

“At Lyft, we’re working to improve lives by connecting people and their communities through the world’s best transportation,” the company states on its website. “This Election Day, we want to help people across America exercise their right to vote.”

In 2016, more than 15 million people were registered to vote, but didn’t because of transportation issues, according to a study done by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement. Another study done by the Pew Research Center showed that almost half of nonvoters lived in low-income, under-served neighborhoods.

For this reason, Lyft is offering riders a 50 percent discount, up to $5 for rides to the polls. In partnership with Vote Latino, Faith in Action, League of Women Voters, and other nonprofits, the company will provide free rides in under-resourced areas.

The promo code for the Election Day discount can be found on Buzzfeed.

In preparation for Election Day, Lyft also plans to:

• Remind Lyft passengers about voter registration deadlines using various social media and platform tools

• Give drivers voter registration handouts and key voter information at Lyft hub locations

• Offer in-office voter registration for employees at our offices

• Offer comprehensive, online voter information through our partner organizations

• Encourage the community to make a plan in advance for Election Day, which has a proven impact on voter turnout rates

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Report: Violent Crime Numbers 'Moving In the Right Direction'

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2018 at 2:26 PM


Memphis and Shelby County have seen declines in three major categories of violent crime so far this year, and leaders say that while citizens “probably don’t yet feel or sense it,” the needle is moving in the right direction.

Numbers for murders, rapes, and robberies were all lower in Memphis and Shelby County in the first three quarters of 2018 compared to the same time last year, according to new figures released Wednesday by the University of Memphis Public Safety Institute and the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission. However, aggravated assaults rose in both the city and the county.

Here’s the basic breakdown of the numbers in Memphis so far this year (compared to last year):

• Reported murders — 112 (down from 136)
• Reported rapes — 378 (from 462)
• Reported robberies — 2,255 (down from 2,574)
• Reported aggravated assaults — 6,970 (up from 6,843)

Here’s the basic breakdown of the numbers in Shelby County so far this year (compared to last year):

• Reported murders — 118 (down from 138)
• Reported rapes — 437 (down from 524)
• Reported robberies — 2,367 (down from 2,668)
• Reported aggravated assaults — 7,723 (up from 7,513)

“One violent crime will always be one too many, but these numbers indicate the needle is moving in favor of increased public safety,” said Shelby County District Attorney General. Amy Weirich. “My hope is that this momentum will continue and result in even better numbers by the end of the year.”

Crime Commission executive director Bill Gibbons said violent crimes need to “decline significantly more, but we are moving in the right direction.”

“The declines are significant, even though most citizens probably don’t yet feel or sense it,” Gibbons said.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Council Looks to Fill Vacancy Left by Morrison

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2018 at 12:27 PM

  • Memphis City Council
  • Bill Morrison

The Memphis City Council District 1 seat will soon be vacant, as Councilman Bill Morrison’s resignation from the council becomes effective on Thursday, November 1st.

Candidates wishing to fill the vacancy may be nominated by council members and the general public, or interested candidates can submit an application packet to the council office in Memphis City Hall. The packets can be picked up from the office beginning Friday at noon and must be submitted before Wednesday, November 14th at noon.

All candidates must submit proof of residency documents, as well as a sworn affidavit and nomination petition with at least 25 registered voter signatures who live in District 1.

The council, who will ultimately decide who fills the seat, plans to vote on a candidate at its meeting on Tuesday, November 20th. At the meeting, the qualifying candidates will have the chance to deliver speeches and answer any questions council members may have for them. Then, the council does multiple rounds of voting.

The process calls for the candidates receiving less than two votes in the first round to be eliminated. The voting continues until one of the candidates receives seven votes. After three rounds of voting, Chairman Berlin Boyd has the option to only consider the top two nominees.

Morrison, who was elected to the council first in 2007, then again in 2011 and 2015, was elected Shelby County Probate Clerk in August. Morrison, along with Janis Fullilove and Edmund Ford Jr., is one of three council members to be elected to other posts. Fullilove and Ford have yet to resign.

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Truckers Busted With 280 Pounds of Marijuana

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 3:36 PM

  • Shelby County District Attorney General

Not even a truckload of washing machines could clean up two weed-hauling truckers.

Corey Dajuan Walden, 31, of Antioch, Tenn., and Jonathan Tarell Carter, 43, of Cane Ridge, were driving a tractor trailer Sunday evening when they were pulled over for a traffic violation on I-40 close to Canada Road.

But Nic, a K-9 officer, smelled something funny.

  • Shelby County District Attorney General

When officers opened the truck’s trailer, they found a load of washing machines. But in that seemingly clean load, they also found 280 pounds of marijuana. That's about how much pro wrestlers weigh.

Street value for the weed was estimated to be abut $840,000, according to West Tennessee Drug Task Force Director Tim Helldorfer

The arrest was made by members of the Multi-Agency Gang Unit and the Drug Task Force. Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich and Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner said the seizure is good example of the coordinated efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Cohen Urges Hearing on Domestic Terrorism

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 2:24 PM

From left, Bush, Sayoc, Bowers. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • From left, Bush, Sayoc, Bowers.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen asked for an emergency hearing on hate crimes and domestic terrorism in the wake ”of recent killings by individuals with white supremacist views.”

Cohen joined Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX) in a letter to House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) to request the hearing.

In their letter, they cite three incidents for the need of a hearing:

• On Wednesday, Gregory Bush attempted to enter a predominantly black church in Jeffersontown, Ky. When he failed, he entered a nearby supermarket and killed two African American individuals. He is reported to have told a bystander: “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.” He is also reported to have a long history of domestic violence charges and to have been previously barred from possessing a firearm under federal law.

• On Friday, federal prosecutors charged Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr. with sending explosive devices to at least a dozen public figures who have often been singled out by President [Donald] Trump. Savoc identified himself to coworkers as a white supremacist who “dislikes gays, African-Americans, Jews, and anybody who isn’t white.”

• On Saturday, Robert Bowers shot and killed 11 people gathered to worship at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He made his motive clear to the SWAT team that captured him: “I just want to kill Jews.

“In the past week, our nation has borne witness to three acts of terror,” reads the letter to Goodlatte. “This groundswell of violence includes both the largest attempted mass assassination of prominent political figures in American history and the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in American history.
“Each of these acts was carried out by an individual understood to espouse white supremacist views…Whether it manifests itself as racism or anti-Semitism or xenophobia, white supremacy is white supremacy. In its modern form, it motivates a fluid and particularly virulent form of domestic terrorism. It must be stopped.”

The three lawmakers say Goodlatte did not respond to a similar request for such a hearing after last year’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.

ACLU: Police Spying Ruling Win For Free Speech Nationwide

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 10:52 AM

Michael Rallings with crowd during protest - BRANDON DILL
  • Brandon Dill
  • Michael Rallings with crowd during protest

Legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Tennessee said Friday’s ruling that the Memphis Police Department (MPD) violated a 1978 consent decree barring political surveillance of citizens is a win for free speech nationwide.

Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU-TN legal director, said that the Blanchard v. City of Memphis ruling could make Memphis a “standard-bearer” as other cities learn to balance free speech and advancing technology.

“This ruling is a tremendous victory for free speech in Memphis and nationwide,” Castelli said. “The court not only recognized that under the consent decree Memphis residents enjoy even stronger free speech protections than those afforded by the First Amendment, but that this uniquely positions Memphis to be a standard-bearer for cities across the country as they wrestle with how to protect individuals’ privacy and free speech in the face of ever-growing surveillance technologies.”

U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla ruled that the city failed to train its officers on political intelligence as defined by the 1978 consent decree. This failure led to a “shared misunderstanding of the decree’s requirements and a significant number of violations.”

“Every community must decide how to ensure an appropriate balance between public safety and protecting personal rights,” the court wrote, “By successful implementation of the consent decree, MPD has the opportunity to become one of the few, if only, metropolitan police departments in the country with a robust policy for the protection of privacy in the digital age. The court recognizes this may be a heavy burden; being a pioneer usually is.”

The court imposed sanctions “designed to ensure future compliance” with the consent decree.

They include:

Requirements that the Memphis police department revise their policy on political intelligence and train officers accordingly. 

Establishing a process for approving criminal investigations that may incidentally result in gathering political intelligence. Establish written guidelines for the use of social media searches. 

Maintaining a list of all search terms used in social media collators and submit the list to the court quarterly. 

Court-appointed independent monitor to supervise the implementation of these sanctions. 

MPD Director Michael Rallings responded to the ruling Saturday, saying that the department has made an efforts in the past to not violate the decree: “The Memphis Police Department has been proactive in our approach by putting methods in place, prior to the ruling, to ensure that we stay within the limits of the decree.

“We look forward to working with the court to ensure compliance.”

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of ACLU-TN, called Friday’s ruling an important decision, as free speech is “crucial” and engaging in dialogues about injustices are “vital” to democracy.

“This important decision ensures that activists in Memphis can continue to fight the good fight without fear of unwarranted police surveillance,” Weinberg said. “The right to free speech is crucial to our ability to speak out against injustice and to hold the government accountable. Especially in this day and age, being able to truly engage in dialogue about important issues without the threat of intimidation is vital to our democracy.”

Saturday, October 27, 2018

ACLU Wins Illegal Surveillance Ruling Against MPD

Posted By on Sat, Oct 27, 2018 at 8:56 AM

Saying that there was "clear and convincing evidence" that the city of Memphis actively pursued covert surveillance of four local activists, U.S. District Judge Jon P. McCalla decreed on Friday that the ACLU of Tennessee could sue the city of Memphis for breaking a 1978 agreement prohibiting the city from conducting such activities. 
Judge Jon P. McCalla
  • Judge Jon P. McCalla

From McCalla's decision: "The Court finds that the ACLU-TN has demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that it was the entity that entered into the 1978 agreement with the City. Thus, the ACLU-TN has standing to bring the lawsuit."

McCalla's ruling came as a result of an August trial to determine whether the ACLU had legal standing to pursue a lawsuit on behalf of local activists Elaine Blanchard, Keedran Franklin, Paul Garner, and Bradley Watkins, who claimed they had been illegally spied upon by the Memphis Police Department and other city agencies.

The city violated several areas of the consent agreement, McCalla ruled, including: intercepting phone calls and electronic communications, using a fake Facebook profile of "Bob Smith" to learn of activists' activities, and failing to properly inform officers of the parameters of the 1978 ruling. The city also utilized the local Office of Homeland Security to gather information on Memphis activists. From the judgment:

* The police department conducted “political intelligence”as specifically defined and forbidden by the consent decree.
* The department operated the Office of Homeland Security for the purpose of political intelligence.
* The department intercepted electronic communications and infiltrated groups through the “Bob Smith” Facebook account.
The department failed to familiarize MPD officers with the requirements of the decree.
* The department did not establish an approval process for lawful investigations into criminal conduct that might incidentally reveal information implicating First Amendment rights.
* The department disseminated information obtained in the course of an investigation to individuals outside law enforcement.
* The department recorded the identities of protest attendees for the purpose of maintaining a record.
The judgment is available in PDF form here and goes into great detail about specific activities conducted by MPD and the city in their efforts to spy on local activists and their groups. Surveillance was conducted against activists from Save the Greensward, Black Lives Matter, and other groups, and photos were taken at several marches and protests. Details of the city's surveillance operation begin on page 20 of the attached document

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Friday, October 26, 2018

Deidre Malone in Talks to Handle Council Referenda Campaign

Posted By on Fri, Oct 26, 2018 at 2:09 PM

Advertising executive Deidre Malone of Malone Advertising and Media Group has confirmed that she is in negotiation with representatives of the Memphis City Council to handle the “public information” campaign on three ballot referenda that a council majority has voted to fund to the tune of $30,000 to $40,000.
Deirdre Malone
  • Deirdre Malone

Malone, a former Shelby County commissioner, had previously announced her personal support for the referenda.

The council’s action, contained in a previously unannounced add-on resolution by Councilman/County Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr., was swiftly passed by an 5 to 3 margin Tuesday night, and immediately embedded in the public record by a “same-night minutes” motion from Ford.

The expenditure of public funds for a one-sided campaign on behalf of the referenda, sans benefit of mayoral approval or opportunity to veto, is the subject of an emergency hearing for a temporary injunction and restraining order against it, set for later Friday in the courtroom of Chancellor Jim Kyle.

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Emergency Hearing to Halt Council Media Campaign on Referenda

Posted By on Fri, Oct 26, 2018 at 1:41 PM

UPDATE: Chancellor Kyle issued a temporary injunction against spending of public money, pending an opportunity for him to study the parties’ respective briefs. He will reconvene the case on Tuesday at 10 a.m. DETAILS TO COME

An emergency hearing has been set for 4 p.m. Friday in the courtroom of Chancellor Jim Kyle to hear a request by a group of plaintiffs for a temporary restraining order and injunction against the expenditure of $30,000 to 40,000 in taxpayer funds by the Memphis City Council to advocate publicly for the passage of three referenda on the November 6th ballot.

By a vote of 5 to 3, the council passed a previously unannounced add-on resolution by Councilman/County Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr. on Tuesday to provide the sum for “a public information campaign concerning the referenda” to explain their "potential benefits to the citizens of Memphis." After passage, the council hastily voted for a “same-night minutes” process to safely embed the vote in the permanent record.

The referenda, which have been and remain controversial, ask voters to nullify previous actions approved by the city's electorate — including a two-term limit for mayor and council members, which would be increased to three terms, and the repeal of a prior referendum calling for instant runoff voting (IRV). Another referendum proposes to nullify the district-runoff provisions of a 1993 court decree.

The request for injunction alleges that the expenditure of public funds for such a one-sided propaganda campaign would constitute “distinct and palpable injury” upon the “general citizenry.”

The plaintiffs also allege that the council’s action lacked proper mayoral authorization or opportunity to veto and that state law does not authorize the use of public funds to advertise on behalf of either side of a ballot referendum. The request for declaratory judgment further states that emergency judicial action is needed to forestall the proposed advertising campaign because voting on the aforesaid referenda is already under way.

Plaintiffs are Erika Sugarmon, John Marek, Sam Goff, and Save IRV, Inc.

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Mighty Lights to be Showcased Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Oct 26, 2018 at 11:56 AM


Officials will officially unveil Mighty Lights on Saturday at the end of RiverArtsFest in a ceremony they're calling "Recharge the River."

A private donor funded the project, which is managed by the nonprofit Memphis Bridge Lighting Inc. and includes the lighting on Big River Crossing.

The grand reveal is scheduled for around 6:30 p.m. at the festival located on Riverside Drive between Union and Jefferson. The festival will open its doors for free after 5 p.m.

We got our hands on some test videos, sped 'em up, and turned them into gifs for you — gifts for you.

So, let's see what this puppy can do:





Now that your attention span can't handle anything but a gif now, we gif-i-fied the event reminder, too. Here ya go:


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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Memphis Pets of the Week (Oct. 25-31)

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 12:41 PM

Each week, the Flyer will feature adoptable dogs and cats from Memphis Animal Services. All photos are credited to Memphis Pets Alive. More pictures can be found on the Memphis Pets Alive Facebook page.


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Group Urges City Council to Call Off Educational Campaign

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 11:01 AM


A local group is encouraging a city-wide call-in to demand the Memphis City Council not create any public awareness campaign related to the November 2018 election and its referendums.

This comes after the council voted Tuesday to spend $30,000 to $40,000 on a public information campaign concerning the referenda to explain their "potential benefits to the citizens of Memphis."

Now, the group Save Instant Runoff, Inc fears that the campaign will “distort the democratic process” and will be perceived as “city-sponsored propaganda.” The group agrees with the need for voter education, but not from the council, which they call a “biased body.”

“Today we encourage all outraged voters to call the city council’s office at 901-636-6786 and demand the city council abstain from the development of an ‘educational’ campaign,” Carlos Ochoa, spokesperson of the group, said in a Thursday statement. “The people of Memphis need clear and unbiased information regarding the upcoming referendum, but the city council is not the entity to provide it.”

The group outlined six specific reasons for why they believe the city council to be “biased and incapable of creating a neutral educational campaign”:

The resolution to allocate upwards of $40,000 for the campaign was not included the in the council’s published agenda, which would have allowed for more public scrutiny.

Following the council’s Tuesday meeting, Chairman Berlin Boyd and the council’s attorney, Allan Wade, wouldn’t disclose if the campaign would be neutral or not. Then, in the Chairman’s Recap, Boyd wrote “Council approved funding a public information campaign concerning the referenda to explain their potential benefits to the citizens of Memphis,” which is not neutral.

Council members Patrice Robinson and Edmund Ford Jr. used taxpayer dollars to host several town hall meetings this year to lobby the public to repeal IRV and other electoral reforms approved by Memphis voters in 2008. At the meetings, Erika Sugarmon, a pro-IRV speaker, was consistently denied equal time to refute Edmund Ford’s misinformation.

Memphis City Council members are misleading Memphians with the false claim that instant runoff voting would cost the city “in excess of $6 million” to purchase new voting machines. Shelby County Election Commission Elections Administrator Linda Philips has previously stated that our existing voting machines are capable of using instant runoff voting, a fact the City Council has kept hidden from Memphis voters for the past decade.

The Shelby County Election Commission is planning to buy new voting machines, but not because of IRV.

Chairman Boyd published a newsletter with taxpayer funds urging Memphis voters to vote yes on repeal. The move has been called unethical by some.

The council hired the lobbying firm Ingram Group to pass anti-IRV legislation at the state level, which would have denied Memphians the opportunity to vote on whether the electoral reforms they approved a decade ago — including term limits — should be repealed.

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