Three Things to Watch on City Council Day



The Memphis City Council meets Tuesday and while its agenda isn’t thick, it is interesting. Here are three big things to watch.

1. Weed - No doubt the hottest hot-button issue before the council tomorrow will be about marijuana, mary jane, weed, reefer, grass, pot, ganga, wacky tobacky, the sweet sticky-icky.

Council member Berlin Boyd wants to decriminalize possessing or selling small amounts of marijuana in the city. On Tuesday, he’ll introduce an ordinance that would remove criminal charges associated with breaking marijuana laws here and replace them with a $50 fine.

Currently, those convicted of less than an ounce of pot in Tennessee face a misdemeanor charge and the possibility of up to a year in jail and a maximum $2,500 fine. Anything above a half-ounce is a felony.

Here’s how the ordinance reads on the council’s agenda: “An ordinance to institute a civil penalty for the casual possession and sharing of less than one half ounce of marijuana.”

“Councilman Boyd believes that it is time to recognize, as has been done in many other municipalities across the country, that bringing individuals into the burdensome and expensive criminal justice system is not commensurate with the crime of possessing a small amount of marijuana,” read a news release issued by Boyd’s office last week.

The council will review the proposal during the meeting of its Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee at 10:30 a.m. You can watch the hearing here.

The ordinance may get its first vote by the full council Tuesday. But, then again, it may not. The council could decide to “move it downstairs” (put it on the full agenda) or keep it in committee for further discussion.

If it gets a first vote Tuesday, two more votes would be needed to make it city law. If it’s not delayed, weed could be decriminalized here on September 30.

A rendering of the proposed Mason Village as it appeared in Wharton's 2016 budget. - CITY OF MEMPHIS
  • City of Memphis
  • A rendering of the proposed Mason Village as it appeared in Wharton's 2016 budget.

2. Mason Village - Money - $4 million, precisely - could move to make the Mason Village project a reality.

Council members are slated to vote to appropriate the funds to the project, which would redevelop the area around Mason Temple.

Here’s how former Memphis Mayor A C Wharton described the project in his 2016 budget proposal:

“The Mason Village Project is an aggressive predevelopment investment in the infrastructure and public space in support of the redevelopment of the area surrounding the historic Mason Temple and the I-55 Gateway known as COGIC Place.

This project will address critical improvements to neighborhood assets and housing by replacing distressed housing and blight with nearly 80 units of new, high quality, mixed income housing.”

Current Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland put $2 million in his 2017 budget for the project.

Council members will hear the proposal during the Housing and Community Development Committee meeting at 1:20 p.m. The committee schedule allows exactly 10 minutes for the project (and its $4 million of taxpayer funds) to be heard as the next meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. (However, the money has already been approved for the project, the council is just voting to move it.)

3. Wise-eseum? Coli-acre? - The terms to lease the MidSouth Coliseum will be discussed during the council’s executive session at 2 p.m.

While the agenda is not specific, the terms are likely for Wiseacre Brewing Co. the local brewery's co-founder, Frank Smith, pitched the council an idea two weeks ago to rent a part of the massive building for the brewery.

The brewery would take over the entire bottom portion of the arena, according to the plan.

Extra credit -

4. Discussion of the 2016 disparity study

5. Update on the smart meter opt out program (Anytime you see the words “smart” and “meter” put together on the agenda, it’s always worth watching.)

6. Monthly update on the rape kit backlog

7. AND someone on the council wants to change the name of Kimbal Avenue for Mr. Robert Raiford. If you don’t know his first name, you know his last. He’s the co-owner of Paula and Raiford’s Disco and the caped spirit guide to dance-party disciples.

Check out this cool story about Raiford's 40th anniversary in Memphis magazine, our sister publication, from writer Shara Clark and photographer Brandon Dill. 

Let's have another look at Mr. Raiford in his natural habitat: 

  • Brandon Dill

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