Grenade! Major Change in Proposed Charter

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The Memphis and Shelby County Charter Commission made a major change in the proposed consolidation charter Monday. The commission pushed back the implementation two years, from September of 2012 to 2014.

The change will be moot if voters in Memphis or Shelby County reject the charter in separate referendums on November 2nd.

I'm not sure whether the 15-member commission choked, had second thoughts, studied the election returns, or heeded the warnings of attorney John Ryder that a legal challenge was all but certain unless the "start date" was pushed back. It was the commission's 30th and final meeting. About two hours after the start date was changed, the commission approved the proposed 48-page charter by a 14-1 vote, with Millington Mayor Richard Hodges casting the lone "no" vote.

In the early drafts of the charter, the start date was September 1, 2012. That would have shortened the four-year terms of, among others, Shelby County Mayor-elect Mark Luttrell, who got more than 102,000 votes last week. The commission's reasoning was that candidates and voters deserve advance notice of something that would abbreviate their terms. Several commissions told Ryder they were upset that they had not been informed of possible legal pitfalls sooner. But the vote to change the start date was unanimous.

"This is a grenade that has been tossed into the room," said commission member Richard Smith.

The change means that some of the supposed benefits of the charter would not take effect until 2017 because there is a three-year cap on property taxes after implementation.

The Flyer will summarize the charter provisions in this week's cover story that comes out Wednesday.

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