The city's new, softer rules on marijuana possession were sealed last week in a vote by the Memphis City Council, while city officials are still working out the details to implement the new law.
Memphis Police Department (MPD) officers now have the discretion to issue a $50 fine for possessing less than a half ounce of marijuana, or uphold the state law which can carry up to $2,500 in fines and one year in jail. City courts will have the ability to assign community service in lieu of a fine, but those details are still being tweaked by city and court officials.
The council beefed up its ordinance that prohibits panhandling at busy intersections, though panhandlers already faced time and place restrictions that outlined when and where they couldn't beg. The hours were extended to cover both rush hours, from 5 p.m. to 10 a.m.
Council member Philip Spinosa Jr. has repeated that his sponsored ordinance is solely about the safety of panhandlers and motorists alike, but critics of the ordinance have said it accomplishes nothing but to further criminalize poverty.
Finally, the city council made initial moves to start collecting taxes from short-term rental owners, like those on Airbnb and others. But the details of the new rule will continue to evolve in committee before the minutes from the October 18th meeting are approved and thereby cementing the ordinance on the November 1st meeting.
Forrest Rides On
Last Friday, the Tennessee Historical Commission denied Memphis City Council's application to relocate the statue and remains of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the slave-trade profiteer and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, from a taxpayer-funded public park in the middle of a majority black city.
The city council voted in 2015 to move the statue and remains of both Forrest and his wife from what is now called Health Sciences Park in the aftermath of the Charleston, South Carolina, shooting that left nine parishioners dead.
However, the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act of 2013 prevents cities or counties from relocating, removing, renaming, or otherwise disturbing war memorials on public properties. So, the council filed an application for a waiver that would allow the monument to be relocated to one of two suggested spaces.
The rejection was based on criteria adopted by the commission in 2015; the commission could have voted to change that criteria at Friday's meeting, but opted not to.
According to city council's attorney, Allan Wade, the waiver filed met the commission's criteria. Much of the criticism and what Wade deems "erroneous" claims regarding the requested waiver came from members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
"I think the larger question is, what is the reason for the statue to be located here?" said Wade. "The only connection [Forrest] has to the city of Memphis is that he made millions and millions as a slave trader."
That day, Memphis mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement, "I'm disappointed with the Tennessee Historical Commission's vote today. We'll continue to explore options to carry out the statue's removal, which I voted for as a member of the City Council."
Presently, it is unclear what options exist for the continued pursuit of the statue's removal. The city council has the option to file for another waiver, but it is likely to be rejected again if no criteria changes are made.
The Tennessee Historical Commission did not return the Flyer's request for comment.