Resolution to explore consolidating Memphis, Shelby County governments to go before city council

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 5:10 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The ball is in motion to consolidate the local governing bodies of Memphis and Shelby County.

At a press conference Monday morning in Memphis, a joint resolution was announced that, if approved, would create a charter commission that would spend up to the next nine months to look at the notion of a consolidation of the two governments.

“Hopefully, it will be followed up with a positive recommendation voted by the full body,” said Memphis City Councilman Chase Carlisle.

Carlisle and Shelby County Commissioner Reginald Milton have both vocalized their support of forming a metropolitan government, using the city of Nashville as an example.

The Tennessee capital city has had a metropolitan government since the early 60s, and while the formation of a metropolitan government isn’t the sole reason for its growth over the decades, both Carlisle and Milton say it’s definitely a part of what makes Music City an appealing location for potential investors.

“This is taking people from throughout the county who are sitting down and saying, ‘What would it take to move us forward?’ Because let’s be honest, Nashville is eating our lunch,” Milton said.

“From 2000 to 2018, our economy grew nine percent, not just in Memphis but all counties in our MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area),” Carlisle said. “Nashville’s MSA grew 75 percent.”

Carlisle, along with City Councilman J.B. Smiley, will present the joint resolution before Memphis City Council Tuesday. If the resolution is approved by both city council and Shelby County Commission, the charter commission will be formed.

The commission will consist of 15 members, 10 selected by Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and five members by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

Former Memphis city councilman, Jack Sammons, and Memphis businessman Tyrone Burroughs will be the commission’s co-chairs.

“We think that it’s time to light the fuse for discussion that the city council and county commission consider whether or not a new form of government should take us into future,” Sammons said.

Sammons went onto say that potential investors, companies who are looking to build facilities and/or headquarters, in the area are going to want to deal with only one voice, one government, not have to do the same thing twice with the two forms of government in city council and county commission.

“We believe that a metro government is the way to go,” Burroughs said. “We believe it creates efficiency and allows us to compete with cities our size.”

Should all go according to plan, the approval of the resolution, the formation of the commission, and the nine-month period of research into a potential consolidation, a constitution, or charter, would still have to be drafted and be put up to a vote.

It’s a long road to what Carlisle and Milton want to achieve.

“Will it work? We won’t know unless we try,” Milton said.

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