Archive for the ‘Agenda Items’ Category

MLGW Rate Increases

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

MLGW Rate Increases

 

MLGW has proposed rate increases in gas, electric and water rates over the next few years. MLGW management says that part of the need for increases are related to decreasing sales in product. Well I decided to review the latest annual report available (the year ending December 31st, 2016).

 

The City Charter designates the disposition of revenue from MLGW three divisions, light, gas and water. MLGW is not a profit-making organization but it is required to breakeven and pay it debts and keep a reserve to cover its debts and emergencies with a proper margin. It also pays to the City of Memphis a payment like a for profit business would pay.

 

I have looked at the statements of the three divisions for the year ended 12/31/16 and the electric division lost $12 million dollars after paying $40 million to the City of Memphis. The Gas Division lost $14 million after paying $17.5 million to the City of Memphis. The water division made $9.8 million after paying $4.4 million to the City of Memphis. It is not clear if this includes the 2 million payment for the FedEx arena.

 

It seems clear to me that the MLGW needs a price increase to keep its financial situation secure. It is a well-run organization with well trained employees and with advanced technical knowledge.

 

Now I want to point out that MLGW employees have a much richer health care benefits then the City of Memphis and Shelby County employees. I am gathering current information of these benefits and will be publishing information as soon as I obtain the data.

 

People are becoming energy savers and the combination of advanced energy saving appliances like light bulbs and AC/heating units and smart meters are saving energy and this is a good thing for the ecology. Again this is a well run organization with competitive rates and I hope that whomever replaces Jerry Collins will be as able as he has been.

This and That About The Bicentennial Gateway Project

Monday, November 27th, 2017

This and That About The Bicentennial Gateway Project

 

I recently published the details about this huge proposed project but there were several unanswered questions that needed answers.

 

Here are the points that needed clarification and I pursued and got the answers.

 

On the list for original amounts spent for the presentation of this project was $518,270.97 paid to Stephen Schreiner & Renee Barrett. It turns out that that this amount was for the purchase of two pieces of property close to Bass Pro at 369 and 371 North Main.

Another question concerned the funding for this project which showed Annual Revenues from Land Leases of $297,000 the first year and a total of $3.7 million through 2031. The answer from the City of Memphis was the underlying assumption from the RKG report that the City might lease City-owned land to private entities, the specific land under consideration would be Mud Island. This is only an assumption, as no deal or structure has been developed for a project at this location.

Another question concerned the Brooks Museum of Art and the amount of support that the City of Memphis gives to the Brooks yearly. The City responded that in the FY 2016 net expenditures from the City to the Brooks was $571,448.00. I have attached the latest 990 form detailing the finances of the Brooks Museum. It basically depends on contributions from the City of Memphis and outside donors.

 

The other big factor is the type of bonds that are proposed to finance this and other similar projects like the Fairgrounds project. I am told they will be revenue bonds which generally mean that the City of Memphis, Shelby County and other governmental organizations with tax powers will not be on the hook if the project does not pay for itself on sales tax and property tax increasing revenues. Here is typical revenue bond language.

THE SERIES XXXX BONDS AND THE INTEREST THEREON DO NOT NOW AND SHALL NEVER CONSTITUTE A CHARGE AGAINST THE GENERAL CREDIT OR TAXING POWERS OF THE CITY, THE STATE OF TENNESSEE (THE “STATE”) OR ANY POLITICAL SUBDIVISION THEREOF WITHOUT LIMITATION, THE CITY, SHELBY COUNTY, TENNESSEE (THE “COUNTY”) and so on and so on.

So what this means, if it is revenue bond financing, that the bond buyer is at risk and will take the haircut if the income projections do not meet the projections. Hopefully they will and if so fine. If not, the bond holders suffer. However the reputation of the City will also suffer as it now happening in Puerto Rico and the City of Chicago and the state of Illinois and the City of Detroit in the past.

 

This downtown project and the Fairgrounds proposal needs a lot more discussion and disclosure. What are the risks and what are the rewards?

 

 

 

 

 

 

$281M Downtown Cultural Center And Now $160 M For The Fairgrounds

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

$281M Downtown Cultural Center And Now $160 M For The Fairgrounds

 

I have to give the administration credit for thinking big. And it all will be paid, we hope, with money generated by tax incremental financing due to increased tourism sales taxes and state economic development funds.

The presentation on the downtown cultural center by the administration was well done and presented. I looked at the plan and wondered what had been spent so far for the well done concept work. So I asked the City to tell me what has been spent so far for this work. Here is their answer.

 

Original amounts for the Bicentennial Gateway development project.

# Vendor Original Amount

 33400 RKG Associates $40,000 and another $40,000 for Amendment #1

 33401 SR Consulting $250,000 and another $150,000 for Amendment #1

 33413 Bass, Berry and Sims $250,000

 33885 CH Johnson Consulting $20,000 and another $18,000 for Amendment #1

 34548 Glankler Brown $25,000

 34607 Archimania $128,325

 34619 Stephen Schreiner & Renee Barrett $518,270.97

That is a total so far that they have admitted to of $1.439 million.

I will pursue this further as we need to know what has been spent in addition to the above plus what has been spent on the fairgrounds planning so far. If you have additional questions and want further information let me know.

$281 Million For A Freshwater Aquarium And Downtown Cultural Center!!

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

$281 Million For A Freshwater Aquarium And Downtown Cultural Center!!

 

Talk about an ambitious plan, this one takes the cake. Here are the details in a well presented and concise exhibit. The major elements of the proposed plan are as shown below.

  • Close Monroe between Front Street and Riverside Drive.
  • Create a new cultural center bounded by Union Avenue on the south, Front Street on the east, Riverside drive on west and the Cossitt Library on the north. This cultural center may become the relocation building for the Brooks Museum.
  • Build a pedestrian bridge going across Wolf River to Mud Island.
  • On Mud Island build a new 250 foot tall fresh water aquarium.
  • Upgrade the mosquito infested Mud Island Amphitheatre to something better suited to the outdoor concert business.

I must say I am impressed with the whole concept and plan. The Mud Island investment has been a failure as it never developed continuing attractions to draw people to come. It should have had bars and restaurants along the west side overlooking the river. I believe this was never done because it was opposed by the Beale Street interests. Also access to the island was limited to the north entrance.

Now as to the Brooks Museum. This is not mentioned in the plan but the CA article of October 18th said that this was a possibility. The Brooks Museum has a fine collection of art and much of it cannot be displayed as they do not have the space. Also there is a possibility this cultural center being the site for the William Eggleston collection, a world famous collection of photographs.

Now as to paying for this plan! The exhibit shows the cost and how it would be financed. Excluding the Pinch District Development and the Convention Center Renovation, the document projects a cost of $282 million.

  • Aquarium Museum $121 Million
  • River Park & Pedestrian Bridge $35 million
  • Cultural Center and Monroe Terrace $84 million
  • Fourth Bluff and Civic Commons $21 million
  • Riverfront Improvement $20 Million

For a total of about $282 million.

Basically they claim that it would be financed with the following items.

  • $100 million paid for by increases every year in incremental sales tax revenues in the expanded TDZ zone.
  • $74 million in net new sales taxes from sales of consumer goods.
  • $30 million in new aquarium sales taxes.
  • $7.3 million in sales taxes from the cultural center attendance and purchases.

 

  • $2.3 million from hospitality contribution (convention center hotels)
  • $3.7 million from land leases

The questionable items appear to be the projected growth of TDZ sales tax revenue and the amount of private equity and philanthropy that will be pledged to the project. The other item that occurs to me is the question of philanthropy. What will Bass Pro contribute to this project as Bass Pro seems to have a great upside when we are talking about a fresh water aquarium. After all they are in the business of fishing and hunting and if you look at what they spent on their Big Cedar Lodge near Branson Missouri, they certainly have a great upside in seeing this downtown Memphis project succeed.

The real big question is what has plagued past public projects. PROJECT PRICE CREEP!! As with other public projects (think Beale Street Landing) and with the difficulty of construction on the unstable riverfront and the necessity of building in an earthquake zone) can it be done at the projected cost?

What do you think about this big idea for downtown and Mud Island?

$1.3 Million Gifts To Non Profits By 13 Shelby County Commissioners

Monday, August 7th, 2017

August 7, 2017

 

Memphis and Shelby County are awash in non profits. Most are good at performing their goals as stated in their mission statements. Many receive their revenue from generous private donations. Many operate frugally with low overhead and with good and provable results conforming to their mission statements.

Recently the Shelby County commissioners empowered themselves with the authority to each designate up to $100,000 ($1.3 million total per year) in gifts to their designated non profits. Naturally being a snoop by nature I wanted to a list of those non profits and here it is.

Now let me say on the front end that I do not agree that elected people should have the authority to designate my tax money to the non profit of their choice. That should be up to the donor. So there you have it but let us take a look at some of the organizations that received these grants.

You can go to https://www.guidestar.org/Home.aspx  and do your own research. The guidestar data is usually in the form of a #990 document  which gives some limited information about the purpose and finances of the various non profits. Here is what Mayor Luttrell recently stated about this practice in a newspaper article.

So I decided to do some investigation on my own. I ask each of you to look at the list, go to guidestar or a similar reporting organization and do your own research. I would appreciate hearing your own results.

Here are a few of my own results.

$20,000 from Terry Roland to Historic Archives of Rosemark and Environs Inc. They have not provided a 990 form.

$10,000 from Melvin Burgess to National Tourism and Heritage Association. Their mission statement is “ To serve as a resource to communities, to be utilized for the development of their heritage and cultural initiatives.” The 2015 #990 form shows zero assets.

$5,000 from Willie Brooks to College Ready Memphis Inc. The Guidestar report shows College Ready Memphis Inc aka 909 Balfour Rd, West Memphis, Arkansas 72301.

I am continuing to research more information on these “non profits” and I would appreciate any feedback information you may have on any of the others. I will continue to publish more information on these non profits as time permits.The taxpayers deserve to know if these non profit donation are going to a good purpose and if they are effective and worthwhile. What do you think?

What Is The Cost of Minority Purchasing Policies?

Monday, June 12th, 2017

What Is The Cost of Minority Purchasing Policies?

June 12, 2017

 

 

What Is The Cost of Minority Purchasing Policies?

 

There has recently been a lot of discussion in the City and the County governments about the amount of minority purchasing and LOSB (locally owned small business).

Both governments have spent a lot of time on studies about how to expand the opportunity of minorities and LOSBs to get a bigger share of the public purchasing pie.

It is difficult to pull together the total cost of these efforts but the 2017 City of Memphis adopted budget shows $895,000 dollars under the title “EQUAL BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM”.

Shelby County Commissioners voted to rehire consultants Mason Tillman Associates at a cost of $80,000 to help rewrite the county’s procurement procedures.

The 8-4 vote followed a debate on whether a consultant was needed, whether it could be done locally and whether the contract included litigation support.

Mason Tillman conducted the county’s $310,000 disparity study, which analyzed purchasing data from Jan. 1 2012 to Dec. 31, 2014. They found that contracts went overwhelmingly to non-minority males and that 55 percent of the contracts were awarded to firms outside of the county.

I share their desire to expand their share of the pie and allow qualified vendors to get experience and expertise in this area. My concern is the cost to the taxpayers for this expanded sharing.

The ordinance allows a bidding preference as follows. 5% for contracts up to $500,000 and under, 3% for contracts greater than $500,000 and under $1 million and 2% for contracts greater than $1 million. For construction contracts over $2 million a 2% preference will be given to the general contractor when they include LOSB who collectively have 50% of the total prime contract.

This all sounds very complicated and could involve some serious money.

Again let me say that the ability to help LOSBs to grow and gain experience is a good thing as long as it is limited in cost and time in the future. These businesses should use the public money preference and experience to grow their capabilities so that the major part of their future business will be private sector business.

Now my main concern is seeing these LOSB and minority contracts online with final contract amount and competitive bids clearly shown and the amount of preference, if any, shown online.

For example if the City or the County puts out a bid for cleaning supplies. The taxpayers should be able to see the request for proposals (RFPs).  When the bids are opened, the public should be able to see the bids of all bidders on line. Then when the contract is awarded, the public should be able to see the winning low bidder and the contract amount and all other higher bids. If the winning bidder is not the low bidder, then an explanation should be given publically on line for the choice of the successful bidder selection and the cost preference calculation.  Unless I have missed something online, that is not the current procedure.

In July of 2016 I asked the City and the County for their procedures and here is what they replied.

05/26/2016

Joe Saino

Memphis TN

RE: PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST of 5/26/2016, Reference # W003337-052616

Dear Saino,

The City received a public records request from you on 5/26/2016. Your request mentioned “When sealed bids are received on a project or item, are the various bids put on line for the public to see and is the low bidder selected and if not are the reasons available for the public to see for the reason that the low bidder is not selected?”

 

Per the custodian:

Once sealed bids are opened and a project is awarded, the losing bids are not placed online—but can be requested via Open Records.  The winning bid is attached to the resulting contract.    If the lowest bid is not chosen, the Division must supply a letter justifying the reasons for recommending that the award be made to a different bidder. (see Section 10.3.1 of the Purchasing Policies and Procedures Manual)

10.3.1 Bid Award. If the purchase was procured via competitive sealed bidding or multi-step sealed bidding, the City will award the purchase order or contract to the lowest and best bidder. The B&C must be accompanied by a copy of the bid tabulation sheet. The bid tabulation sheet must list all bids submitted in response to the solicitation and be signed by the personnel who completed the bid tabulation sheet. If the division recommends that the purchase order or contract be awarded to one other than the lowest bidder, a full and complete statement of the reasons must accompany the recommendation, for review and approval by the Purchasing Agent.

 

This completes your public records request with the City of Memphis.

Sincerely,

Public Records Office

City of Memphis

 

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EMAIL RESPONSE TO A QUESTION TO HARVEY KENNEDY AT THE COUNTY ABOUT RESULTS OF SELAED BIDS.

 

Mr. Saino,

 

In response to your questions:

 

  1. If it is a sealed bid, each vendor can review the results online in Mercury Commerce. If it is an RFP, vendors will have to make a public records request and all of the information can be viewed.
  2. There are other criteria for RFP’s and all bids must meet specifications.  Cost is always an important factor but not the only basis for award.  I could provide you with an evaluation sheet for one of our bids if you would like to see one.

 

 

Harvey Kennedy

Chief Administrative Officer

Shelby County Government

 

As you see it is possible to get this information but it is not easy. Why not put this information online so that the public can look and see the all the bids and the reasons for the selection if not the low bid.

I would like anyone reading this posting that has experience in this public purchasing area to let me know what is really happening. Also I will be asking public officials why the taxpayers cannot know this information and the cost of these policies without having to put in a public records request.

What do you think?

E Mails From Public Officials

Monday, October 24th, 2016

 

October 23, 2016

I recently sent out an email concerning how I was going to vote in the upcoming November 8th election (www.memphisshelbyinform.com). I then got a few emails from government officials explaining why I was wrong on my recommendation to vote against these two items.

Shall the Shelby County Charter be amended to require both the County Mayor and County Commission’s approval to dismiss the County Attorney from office?

 

Shall Sections 691 (4) and 693 (4) of the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be restored and amended to require distribution only to the general fund of the City, before any distributions of tax equivalents to the County under state law, of that portion of any Electric or Gas Tax Equivalent Payments calculated and determined by the Council under state law or agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority, equal in amount to the City taxes assessed and levied on the fair market value of properties of MLGW electric or gas divisions situated within the corporate limits of the City of Memphis in the same manner and as if said properties were privately owned?

I, BRIAN COLLINS, DIRECTOR OF FINANCE FOR THE CITY OF MEMPHIS DO HEREBY CERTIFY THAT THE NET ANNUAL INCREASE IN REVENUES TO THE CITY IF THIS AMENDMENT IS ADOPTED IS ESTIMATED TO BE $5,000,000.

I got an email from County Commissioner Heidi Shafer as shown below.

“I got your email, and wanted you to see why the county would benefit from merely having the approval process for dismissal as we have for hiring.  The County Attorney is to serve both branches, but that has been far from the case for over two years…BTW, the mayor has authority to veto our appointments…

I believe in checks and balances.” I greatly respect Heidi and her good work in keeping the county fiscally responsible. However I believe this good Mayor and his record has been better than the County Commission and the rancor we see in their various squabbles. I believe the Mayor should retain his authority to dismiss the County Attorney without cause as is currently in the County Ordinance.

Section 2.12. Approval of nominations.

All nominations by the mayor for any board, commission, agency, authority, chief administrative officer, county attorney, public defender, or divorce referee shall be subject to the approval and consent by resolution of the board of county commissioners.

The county mayor, subject to approval by resolution of the board of county

commissioners, may create or abolish major divisions of county government with each division having a division director. The chief administrative officer, the division directors of the county, the county attorney, the public defender, and the divorce referee shall be appointed by the county mayor, subject to approval by resolution of the board of county commissioners, and shall be subject to dismissal by the mayor without cause, and shall be residents of Shelby County at the time they assume the duties of their office and at all other times while serving the county in such capacity.

Now as to Section 691 and 693 of  the City Charter I got the following emails.

“Dear Mr. Saino:

Thank you for your inquiry about the City referendum. I’m sorry for the delay in responding to your inquiry.

The purpose of the referendum is to restore provisions in the City’s charter that were originally added in 1939. The provisions required that the City’s general fund receive MLGW PILOTs based on City taxes on MLGW properties within the City of Memphis as if those properties were privately owned.

In 2015 the Tennessee Courts held these charter provisions were repealed because they interpreted the language of the City’s charter to be in conflict with a 1987 State law. This amendment corrects the language of the charter provisions consistent with what the Courts required, which explains its complexity. As amended, the prior charter provisions will be given the effect as intended and applied from 1939 to 2015.

“To address your specific concerns, this amendment benefits Memphians. It does not effect the surburban municipalities. It does not change the total PILOTs paid by MLGW for the benefit of all eight taxing jurisdictions in the County and therefore will not cause any MLGW rate increase.

What it does is restore the status quo allocation between the City and County that existed before the 2015 Court decision. While this status quo allocation will eliminate the arguable increase due the the County as a result of the 2015 Court decision, it restores a fair allocation for the City.

You indicate that the PILOT should be allocated based on the revenue received in the City vs the County. I am advised that the state law, the TVA agreement and the City’s charter do not allocate PILOTs using situs based revenue; the PILOT is not an income tax equivalent, but an ad valorem tax equivalent. However, if it is based on income, we have been provided information from MLGW that the revenue earned from City MLGW customers is more than 72% for electric and 81 % for Gas. By any other measurement,there is no justification for a 22.5% allocation to Shelby County; for example,  69.73% of the County’s population is in the City and 11.77% is in unincorporated Shelby County. 74% of all electric assets are in the City as compared to 14% in unincorporated Shelby County; the percentage of gas assets in the City is even greater 82% vs. 8.23%.

As you know MLGW’s major distribution assets are located in the City’s streets and rights of way, which bear an undue burden from MLGW utility cuts. Despite paying an overlapping tax the County of $7.78 per $100 of value, none of the $4.38 paid by City taxpayers is use to reimburse the City for Shelby County’s use of and MLGW’s damage the City’s roadways.

So if your premise is that you oppose the Charter Amendment because you think it will hurt Shelby County, I respectfully disagree. The Amendment benefits Memphians and I for one cannot imagine why any MEMPHIAN would vote against the amendment because of some perceived effect on unincorporated Shelby County.

In any event I trust I have explained why I voted for the referendum, why I am voting FOR it and why I am enthusiastically urging my constituents to vote FOR it. If you would like more information a detailed explanation is on the Council’s website.

Patrice Robinson Memphis City Council

Now I am under no illusions that this will not pass as Brian Collins is promising $5 million dollars more from somewhere. However I am always suspicious of money that comes from somewhere other than the other party (the county) or the taxpayer. My objection was based on a lack of pre vote public discussion. No doubt it will pass as free stuff always wins as our national elections prove.  Also the City Council weighed in on this issue with the following email to yours truly. No doubt it will pass but now you have the City side of the issue. The County side may end up in court in a lawsuit.

Council is Unanimous: Vote FOR the Memphis Charter Amendment

City of Memphis sent this bulletin at 10/22/2016 07:51 AM CDT

Good morning Memphians,

Your City Council hopes that you will exercise your civic right to vote this upcoming November 8th, or beforehand by absentee ballot or early voting, which started this week and runs through November 3rd. No City offices are up for election this year, but the City Council did vote 11-0 (with two absent) on July 19th to add a Charter Amendment Referendum on this ballot. See this example of what that will look like for you.

As evidenced by the Council’s unanimous vote, we believe you should vote “FOR” the amendment. Despite its technicality (Full Explanation), this amendment is simple: we needed to make some legalistic changes to the Charter to realign ourselves with state law and receive our fair share of MLGW’s PILOT payments each year. If this vote fails, $5 million that should go to the City budget will instead go to the County. A vote “FOR” won’t raise your taxes. A vote “FOR” won’t raise your MLGW bill. (Other FAQs here) As we see it, the choice is clear for every Memphian.

If you want to know even more, follow those links to our website, or you can always call our office at 901-636-6793 for more details.

We hope this helps you make an informed decision this election day, and we sincerely believe you should vote “FOR”.

Sincerely,

Your Memphis City Council

Bill Morrison – District  1

Frank Colvett, Jr. – District 2

Patrice J. Robinson – District 3

Jamita Swearengen – District 4

Worth Morgan – District 5

Edmund Ford, Jr. – District 6

Berlin Boyd – District 7

Joe Brown – Super District 8-1

Janis Fullilove – Super District 8-2

Martavius Jones – Super District 8-3

Kemp Conrad – Super District 9-1

Philip Spinosa, Jr. – Super District 9-2

Reid Hedgepeth – Super District 9-3

 

 

What Is Going On With The Pilot Payments From MLGW To City And County?

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

October 11, 2016

 

What Is Going On With The Pilot Payments From MLGW To City And County?

There is going to be an item on the ballot this November that proposes to amend Article 65, Section 691 and 693 of the Charter of the City of Memphis. It is relative to distribution of payments of in lieu of taxes (Pilots) by MLGW to the City of Memphis. On page 7 of 8, Brian Collins, Director of Finance City of Memphis, says that the estimated increase of this pilot payment to the City of Memphis may be $5 million dollars. Is this coming out of Shelby County’s share of this pilot payment?

There is litigation going on concerning the issue of sharing of this MLGW pilot payment. It seems to me that the pilot payment should be shared on the basis of income to MLGW from customers who are inside the city of Memphis versus those outside the City limits. It seems that the City of Memphis wants it all. There needs to be an explanation of this move by the City of Memphis before voting starts on this issue.

This is a difficult issue for to understand since the referendum only proposes an Amendment to the City of Memphis Charter. Our concern is that the charter amendment may be a precursor to a different method for calculation by the city for the County share of the tax equivalents being paid by MLGW. It may very well be that the county payment will be reduced by the $5 million increase in revenue to the city.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Below are some statements from the annual MLGW financial statement.

Each year the MLGW pays a tax from the electric division and the gas division as if it were a private company based on the equity or investment of MLGW properties.

The amounts remitted by MLGW to the City and Shelby County were calculated based on City Council resolutions and City Charter provisions governing the PILOT sharing arrangement with Shelby County.

MLGW’s transfer to the City is based on the formula provided by the May 29, 1987 TVA Power Contract Amendment (Supp. No. 8). The formula includes a maximum property tax equivalency calculation plus 4% of operating revenue less power costs (three-year average). Transfers to the city represent the Electric Division’s in lieu of tax payment. The transfer for 2015 decreased by $2.6 million due to a $1.9 million reduction in the tax equalization rate, a decrease of $1.5 million resulting from higher PILOT to Shelby County and the City requesting $0.5 million less than the maximum allowed by TVA contract. The decreases are partially offset by an increase of $1.4 million due to increased net plant investment and operating revenue less power costs (three-year average). MLGW’s transfer to the City is based on the formula provided by the State of Tennessee Municipal Gas System Tax Equivalent Law of 1987. The formula includes a maximum property tax equivalency calculation plus 4% of operating revenue less power costs (three-year average). Transfers to the City represent the Gas Division’s PILOT.

The transfer for 2015 decreased by $0.8 million due to a decrease of $1.0 million resulting from the City requesting less than the maximum allowed by statute and $0.8 million due to a decrease in the tax equalization rate, offset in part by an increase of $0.8 million due to net plant investment and three-year average revenues and an increase of $0.2 million resulting from lower PILOT to Shelby County.

Another important statement is the legal provision of 691 that any surplus remaining, over and above safe operating margins, shall be devoted solely to rate reduction.

Further Info On The Memphis HEHFB Controversy

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

April 13, 2016

Further Info On The Memphis HEHFB Controversy

I recently reported on the two Health Education & Housing Facility Boards, one from the City of Memphis and one from Shelby County. One is apparently well run and the other has had its’ authority temporarily suspended by the Tennessee Housing and Development Agency because of problem with properties run by Global Ministries.

 

I have attended two meeting of the Memphis board. The first one was not a regular monthly board meeting, but a reading of a proposed bond issue by Charles Carpenter, the board attorney. After the formal reading, I asked a few questions concerning transparency and open records and did not get a lot of information.

 

The second meeting, which was a regular monthly meeting, was attended by Channel 3, the Commercial Appeal, several business interests and myself. The only person, other than the business interests, to ask questions was myself. Before the start of the meeting, I asked the secretary for an agenda and she refused to give me one until the actual meeting started. At the end of the meeting I asked why the agendas and all attachments were not published at least two days before the meetings and I received no answer. I asked about the difference between the County ordinance that limits the amount that the Board Counsel can make. Mr. Carpenter said that he was not aware of the County ordinance. I pointed out that for just five Memphis bonds, the overpayment for the Memphis board Counsel was $59,000. Then I asked about a possible conflict of interest on the bonds for the Uptown Manor Senior Project by a board member and they said that they would have to consult the minutes of that meeting to see if the member recused herself. I asked for the minutes but received no reply. After the regular public meeting, they had an executive meeting and I asked if I could attend. They said that it was a closed meeting and the public was not able to attend.

 

Then several days later I, in fact, received the minutes from the two past board meetings concerning possible conflict of interests. I have attached those minutes and they are interesting.

 

Minutes of Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Lee Patton and  Monice Moore-Hagler recused themselves from the Inducement Resolution for the Uptown Manor Senior motion. Under Discussion Items, John Baker brought to the Board’s attention for further consideration a revised short term bond fee structure. Under New Business, Nancy Willis brought to attention a request for  an annual ethics statement to be signed by members of the board and provided an example copy for the Council’s review.

 

Minutes of Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Under action items, Dan Reid recused himself from consideration of inducement bond resolution for Global Ministries Foundation Bent Tree Apartments. Renasant Bank was to provide a private placement loan for the property.

Then Dan Reid re-entered the meeting and Monice Moore-Hagler and Lee Patton recused themselves before consideration of final bond resolution for Uptown Manor Senior Development LLC. Mr. Carpenter recommended approval.

Finally, Paige Walkup asked for an update regarding GMF Warren-Tulane property. Mr. Carpenter reported on his positive contact with Chris Lamberson and the ongoing response to correct issues and bring it up to standard.

 

This just goes to show that all these boards need to publish their agendas in advance along with all accompanied data and the public should see the same information that the board members get. I will look forward to your comments as you get ready to pay your federal taxes that funds all these projects.

Boards and Commissions in Memphis and Shelby County

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

March 3, 2016

Boards and Commissions in Memphis and Shelby County

 

Recently I became interested in Memphis and Shelby County Boards and Commissions. My interest was piqued by all the news concerning Serenity Towers and Global Ministries. Here is a news article on the bond issue for this property.

The Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board of Memphis, Tennessee facilitated the GMF acquisition through the issuance of tax exempt 501(c)3 housing revenue bonds on behalf of the purchaser. Merchant Capital served as the bond underwriter in the placement of the bonds with investors, as the bonds were rated investment grade by Standard and Poor’s rating agency. Jones Walker served as Bond Counsel. Kristin Neun, Esquire, served as FHA counsel. Charles Carpenter, Esquire, served as counsel to the Issuer. The Bank of New York Mellon serves as Trustee. Glanker Brown serves as GMF’s corporate and owner counsel within its expanding national affordable multifamily housing portfolio.

A recent article in the Commercial Appeal stated the following.

About a third of all the units inside Serenity Towers have bedbugs, according to a Memphis Code Enforcement report released Friday.

The report says 134 units have bedbugs inside the senior high rise apartment complex. Other code enforcement violations included cockroaches, broken or damaged windows, leaks in the ceiling, broken thermostats, damaged toilet and faucets among other things.

City code enforcement officers inspected the 396 units in the property on Feb. 11, 2015. The inspection came after several tenants complained of bedbugs and other problems.

Rev. Richard Hamlet, founder of Global Ministries Foundation, said in a statement he was aware of the bedbug problem since his nonprofit bought the property. His staff is working to eradicate the infestation. GMF bought the senior property in 2014 using a $14.5 million bond issued by the Health, Educational and Housing Facilities board of Memphis.

With that background, I started investigating the various boards and commissions. What I found was 46 City Boards and Commissions and 36 County ones. Some are joint boards but many are stand alone ones. It was interesting that the City Health, Education and Housing Facility Board and the County Health, Education and Housing Facility Board have the same names but are completely different and separate

The City HEHF Board states its purpose as follows.

Function & Authority: 
The Health, Education and Housing Facility Board a public nonprofit corporation issues tax exempt revenue bonds for the development or rehabilitation of multi-family housing facilities to be occupied, according to the state statute ?by persons of low and/or moderated income, and/or elderly and/or handicapped persons.

The County HEHF Board states its purpose as follows.

Functions & Authority
The function of the Health, Education, and Housing Facility Board is to assist in the financing of health facilities, educational facilities, and housing facilities for low and moderate income families, disabled individuals and the elderly.  The financings are accomplished through the issuance of revenue bonds payable solely from the revenues of the project.  The taxpayers and the County of Shelby are never liable for the repayment of the bonds.

I asked both boards for their ethics documents and conflict of interest policies. From the County Board I received a prompt answer with the statement of policies and procedures revised 11/4/15 and By-Laws revised 2007.

From the City Board I got the 2008 By Laws and a financial statement.

I attended a meeting of the Memphis HEHF on February 29th for a required hearing concerning a request that the board issue its Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds (Patterson Flats Project), Series 2016 in an aggregate amount not to exceed $12 million dollars. After the required reading I asked some questions concerning fees related to recent bond issues. Mr. Carpenter did not know but referred me to the State of Tennessee for this information. I asked him who was paid the $110,000 in legal and professional fees shown in the 2014 financial statement and he said that he was paid those fees. I asked about the details of the recent resignation of John L. Baker, 17 years as director of the Memphis HEHF board, and was told that that could be discussed only at a regular monthly meeting of the board and that the March meeting on the first Wednesday was cancelled as there was no business to discuss.

This whole matter of this housing for low and moderate income individuals and families, the cost and effectiveness of this approach needs a public discussion and possible alternatives to this expensive program. What do you think?