Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category

Workforce Development And Training

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Workforce Development And Training

 

I am an advocate of open records access and workforce development and training. For many years I have been asking taxpayer funded public bodies for information on finances and evaluation of the effectiveness of the public money that they spend. Some of these bodies are very forthcoming and I would rate the local Shelby County government at the top of the accessibility scale and the old Memphis school board and the successor, Shelby County School Board, at the bottom.

Mainly my focus is local and generally I have not tried to get detailed information on any agency at the Federal Government level. In 2015 there was an article in the CA which caught my eye. This was an article about a $42 million dollar federal grant to provide no-cost career technical and academic training to nearly 300 people over five years. The facility designated was the Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks job Corps center at 1555 McAlister Drive here in Memphis.

As a taxpayer I felt I was entitled to enter and see the facility and learn how my tax money was being spent and how effective was the program. I drove out to the facility one day and was stopped at a guard gate. I told them that I wanted a tour and was told that I would have to make an appointment. I said fine, I would call and make an appointment.

I tried several times and never was able to get to anyone but an answering machine. I left word and a return call number and message but never got a return call. I was frustrated but I did not give up.

This year I tried again and after several calls I got the names of some of the staff. I was able to make a 10 AM appointment with Mr. Smith and I showed up for the appointment at 9:45 at the guard gate. I told the guard about the appointment and was told Mr. Smith was not in. I had the names of several other people and finally the guard tracked down Mr. Harris and I was allowed for the first time to enter the facility.

The facility is interesting. The facility history is that it started out as Memphis Preparatory School which was setup in the face of school integration in the 1970s. It eventually had to close due to finances and the property and the buildings eventually sold to the US Department of Labor for $1.975 million dollars. According to the 2015 CA news story the facility had 232 students aged 16-24 living at the center and 55 non-residential students. According to Mr. Harris this is still the approximate numbers.

I toured the facility with Mr. Harris and saw two dormitories which separately house women and men students. Also there is a child care building for children of the students and outside families able to get into the facility. I viewed classes which included carpentry, industrial electronics and medical and nursing assistant programs and forklift training.

I asked if they published a financial statement and he said he was not aware of one. Concerning performance reports of results I was able to pull up one on the internet as shown from 2012/2013. It showed a graduate average wage of $8.73/hour and a 44.5% full time graduate placement.

Upon further research the facility is run by Minact Inc. under a subcontract with the labor department.

A very interesting thing happened. Due to my telephone requests to the center I got an email from Mr. Wayne Gillard asking me for the best number to reach me. On his email he is listed as “Outreach and Admissions, Job Corps, Alutiiq Commercial Enterprises, LLC, 22 N. Front St, Suite 680, Memphis, Tn 38103.

I looked up Alutiiq and it is listed as a wholly owned subsidiary of Afognak Native Corporation. Here is a statement from their website.

Afognak Native Corporation (Afognak) is an Alaska Native Corporation (ANC) formed under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) and through the 1977 merger of two Alaska Native village corporations: Natives of Afognak, Inc. and Port Lions Native Corporation. Native corporation shareholders are those Alaska Natives who were alive on December 18, 1971, and have proven their lineage to the respective region and village. Congress termed ANC enrollees “shareholders,” although being an ANC shareholder is truly more comparable to a tribal membership – it is a lifetime enrollment that cannot be bought or sold.

This all seems very strange to me. Is there anyone out there who can provide more information how native Alaskan tribes are involved so deeply in workforce development all over the country?

The Hooks center seems well run to me. My question is “What is the cost per student and what are we spending per student nationally on workforce development? Is our tax money being spent wisely? How can we find out? Open the Hooks center to the public and let the public see this facility as we are able to see Southwest Tennessee Community College and Tennessee Tech. Also provide detailed cost and result information to the taxpaying public. What do you think?

 

Could Mandatory Military Service Help Our Youth

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

March 7, 2017

 

When I was young I was faced with mandatory 6 month military service and with a following service in the reserve. Looking back on that time and seeing the current problems with youth education and crime I have come to the conclusion that the re-institution of six months to one year of military service could benefit our youth in several ways.

I am in no doubt that the current political climate would probably not vote for such a change. But look at several factors. It seems to me that the current youth situation has several problems, namely lack of education, discipline and family structure. The military could provide all three elements for at least a significant number of our youths.

I think back on my military experience. When I graduated from high school (1951) I went on to college. When I graduated from college I was required to serve six month of military service including BASIC TRAINING. I went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina and it was somewhat of a shock. I went by train from Memphis to South Carolina and it took at least 24 hours to make the trip. I arrived in early morning and the drill sergeants were waiting for us and marched us of off to Fort Jackson. Several months later I was a new person.  I was in great physical shape, I learned how to make up my bed, I learned how to scrub large pots and garbage cans and to clean out the dreaded grease trap. I also learned how to get along with all types of people of all races and religions.

After basic training I was sent to Ft Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis to finance school where I learned basic finance. More importantly I learned how to type which has been a lifelong benefit as computer came along.  The most important lesson I learned was discipline, organization and love of country.

Now it seems to me that many of our current youth could benefit from such a program. A dose of discipline, vigorous exercise, education and race and class mixing could benefit some of our current youth. Now the next question is should women be included? As the father of four daughters my reaction is that it would not hurt and might be of benefit.  Switzerland has mandatory military service for all able-bodied male citizens who are conscripted when they reach the age of majority, though women may volunteer for any position.

 

What are your thoughts?

Moving After 42 Years

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Moving After 42 Years

February 7, 2017

I have not had the time to publish to my blog (memphisshelbyinform.com) for several months. My wife and I sold our home and moved to a retirement community here in Memphis. Cleaning out our house after 42 years was quite a task. Luckily we have several daughters and sons in laws locally who pitched in and made the difference.

Letting go of stuff is hard. One of my daughters told me that I had two feet and 91 pairs of socks. “But I love those socks” I replied. Finally I got rid of the worst of the 91. And on and on it went. Stuff you put away and forget about. Finally I decided that the most important things were pictures and travel diaries. Even then it was difficult and we finally had to rent some local space to store excess boxes of pictures and files which I promise to go through and throw away most of the stuff and keep only those that are the most important.

My wife and my daughters made the really important decisions, what furniture, rugs and stuff to take and which to sell or give away. On moving day I swore that it would not all fit into the apartment but somehow it all fit due to their good planning. I am now convinced that we had too much space in the old house. But then we raised four daughters in that house and that required space to keep our individual sanity. Those were wonderful years as they grew up and finally left for their own lives.

I plan to get back into my comments on local government and occasionally national government as we experience the Trump years to come. I have several questions about local government and I would love to hear from you as to what questions you have about local government, education, non profits, energy, crime, Mata, business, taxes, environment and other matters on which you have questions. I am anxious to get back into local research and discussion.

Thanks for all your support as I look forward to new friends and raucous discussions.

The City of Memphis OPEB Solution?

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

 

January 3, 2017

 

OPEB is Other Post Employment Benefits. This means retiree medical expenses and life insurance.

Mayor Strickland has been wrestling with this problem for some time including his stint on the City Council before he became Mayor. He is trying to solve a tough unfunded liability problem that has been brought about by the City’s (and I mean past mayors and past city councils) refusal to face the problem since 2007. In 2007 the government accounting standards board warned the city and the county as follows.

“The Governmental Accounting Standards Board issued statement No. 45 (GASB 45) Accounting and Financial Reporting by Employers for Post Employment Benefits Other Than Pensions; GASB 45 requires that other post employment benefits (OPEB) be accounted for similar to pensions in that the expense must be recognized as the benefits are earned rather than as they are paid.”

As of June 30, 2008 when Willie Herenton was Mayor and Jim Strickland was on the City Council, the unfunded OPEB liability was $857 million. The County OPEB unfunded liability as of June 30, 2007 when AC Wharton was county Mayor was $319 million.

Now fast forward to recent reports. The OPEB unfunded liability of the City of Memphis was $700 million as of June 30, 2016. The OPEB unfunded liability of Shelby County Government as of June 30, 2015 was $101 million.

WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF THE DIFFERENCE IN THE ABOVE NUMBERS?  The original cause of both the City and the County was that they allowed retirees under the age of 65 to stay on their subsidized health care plans of which the City and the County paid 70% of the premium. This was regardless of length of service or whether the retiree spouse had a private sector plan which could include the retiree or whether the spouse was on Medicare.

The county passed Item 32B on June 18, 2007 and was signed by Mayor Wharton which addressed and solved the problem. The City did nothing until the recent actions which has resulted in the reported conflict between the Mayor and retirees. Mayor Strickland has come up with his solution “Explaining the path to pre-65 health subsidies”.

The real blame for this huge problem of unfunded liability is the non-action of past City Councils and past City Mayors since the 2007 notice contrasted to the actions of past Shelby County governments. City Mayor Wharton should have known better and past City Councils should have had more courage and foresight.

In the future I will post City, County and MLGW health care costs and let you compare them to what you will be paying privately. I would appreciate your thoughts on these matters.

Betsy Devos, Education Secretary, What It Could Mean For Memphis

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

November 29, 2016

Betsy Devos, Education Secretary, What It Could Mean For Memphis

Recently  I got an invitation from Van Menard to visit a local charter school, Leadership Preparatory Charter School, 4190 Elliston Road, Memphis, Tennessee. The head of school is Ms Valissia Allen, a very smart lawyer born in Detroit who ended up in Memphis via North Carolina.

The visit to the school was quite impressive but I must admit that I have been in very few public and charter schools. Leadership Prep is starting at the bottom of the school age cycle with the first and second grades. They feel that they must get in on the ground floor of the learning cycle if they are to break the disastrous mold of failure of large inner city school populations like Chicago, New York or DC. The children were in uniforms, well organized and disciplined. I asked for test data to compare against other schools and am awaiting the test data to see if what I saw with my eyes can be verified with believable and understandable results.

Thinking about education you cannot help but think about the incoming Trump administration. On the campaign trail, president-elect Donald Trump made many ambitious promises. When it comes to education, Trump is already delivering with his announcement of Betsy DeVos as his pick for the next secretary of education. His choice of DeVos is a clear signal that he intends to be “the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice.” The effect on Memphis could be dramatic.

DeVos is a prominent and generous supporter of school choice, which includes empowering parents and local communities to take greater ownership of education policy.

School choice advocates, unlike our local school board, say increased current federal control over education policy is unacceptable. They point to wide disparities in test scores between white and non-white students as proof that urgent action is required to ensure that all students are receiving a quality education. Our local SCS board has filed an expensive lawsuit asking for greatly increased funding. Yet Washington, D.C., despite spending nearly $18,000 per pupil, has one of the worst high school graduation rates in the country. Many students cannot read at grade level. One story I was told during my visit to Leadership Prep was that one child did not know his real name as he had always been called “Hey Kid” or “Buddy”. This is the clay that Leadership Prep is trying to mold.

Here is some of what Ms. Devos proposes to do if confirmed for the Education job.

  1. Re-authorize the Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program
  2. Have Federal Dollars Follow Low-Income Students; Not Schools
  3. Continue to Be a Champion for Charter Schools

Charter schools are the fastest growing form of public school options and increasingly popular among African American and Latino students. In some cities, successful charter schools are providing low-income immigrant families with the means to live out the American Dream.

Ever since Lyndon Johnson’s administration embarked on creating the Great Society in the 1960s, a significant sum of federal dollars have been devoted to helping the most disadvantaged students. Today, Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides nearly $15 billion in funding for low-income neighborhood schools

Unfortunately, the funding process has grown cumbersome and complicated. More importantly, there is scant evidence that it is truly living up to Johnson’s intention of “providing a good education for every boy and girl — no matter where he lives.”

I look forward to coming changes in education policy and to fostering competition with quality charter schools in competition with public schools. What are your thoughts on public schools, charter schools and private and religious schools, their funding and their public measurable results?

 

 

The US Constitution’s 14th Amendment

Monday, November 21st, 2016

November 21, 2016

The US Constitution’s 14th Amendment

I have always been concerned about people voting who are not eligible to vote as per the 14th amendment of the US constitution which was passed by Congress June 13, 1866 and ratified July 9, 1868.

Section 1 of the 14th amendment. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Wikipedia says the following abut voting eligibility.

The issue of voting rights in the United States, specifically the enfranchisement and disenfranchisement of different groups, has been contested throughout United States history.

Eligibility to vote in the United States is established both through the federal constitution and by state law. Several constitutional amendments (the 15th, 19th, and 26th specifically) require that voting rights cannot be abridged on account of race, color, previous condition of servitude, sex, or age for those above 18; the constitution as originally written did not establish any such rights during 1787–1870. In the absence of a specific federal law or constitutional provision, each state is given considerable discretion to establish qualifications for suffrage and candidacy within its own respective jurisdiction; in addition, states and lower level jurisdictions establish election systems, such as at-large or single member district elections for county councils or school boards.

Voter ID laws in the United States are laws that require a person to provide some form of official identification before they are permitted to register to vote, receive a ballot for an election, or to actually vote. Proponents of voter ID laws argue that they reduce electoral fraud while placing only little burden on voters. Opponents argue that electoral fraud is extremely rare in the United States and has been magnified as an issue to create barriers to voter registration, and that requiring voter ID in effect discriminates against minority groups and those who are less likely to possess photo IDs. Critics have argued that the barriers could result in the disenfranchisement of black, Hispanic and other minority voters. However you are required to have a driver’s license to board an aircraft, to enter City Hall and to do many other everyday things so the argument that it discriminates does not hold water.

At the federal level, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires voter ID for all new voters in federal elections who registered by mail and who did not provide a driver’s license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number that was matched against government records.[1] No state required a voter to produce a government-issued photo ID as a condition to voting before the 2006 election. Indiana in 2006 became the first state to enact a strict photo ID law, a law that was upheld two years later by the U.S. Supreme Court.[2][3] As at September 2016, 33 states have enacted some form of voter ID requirement.[2][4]

Voter ID laws have been controversial in the United States. In 1999, Virginia was the first state to generate controversy when it attempted to implement a pilot voter ID program. The proposal was killed by the Virginia Supreme Court.[5] Since 2012, 17 states have instituted voting restrictions.[6] By 2016, 10 states enacted new voting restrictions (not all requiring voter ID).[7] Lawsuits have been filed against many of these requirements

Tennessee

Identification Requirements to Cast a Ballot

Tennessee law requires that all voters must present a government-issued photo ID containing the voter’s name and photograph at the polls, whether voting early or on Election Day.

Acceptable forms of ID include (even if expired):

  • A Tennessee driver’s license with your photo;
  • A U.S. passport;
  • A photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security;
  • A photo ID issued by the federal government or Tennessee state government;
  • A U.S. military photo ID; or
  • Tennessee-issued handgun carry permit with your photo.

You may NOT use:

  • College student photo IDs;
  • Privately issued photo IDs (such as discount club cards or bank cards); or
  • Photo IDs issued by other states or by county or city governments (including library cards).

You are exempt from the ID requirement if:

  • You are voting absentee by mail;
  • You are a resident of a licensed nursing home or assisted living center and you vote at the facility;
  • You are hospitalized;
  • You have a religious objection to being photographed; or
  • You are indigent and unable to obtain a photo ID without paying a fee.

If you do not provide an acceptable government-issued photo ID, you will be required to vote a provisional ballot.  In order to have that provisional ballot counted, the voter must return to the election commission’s office to show a valid photo ID within the 2 business days following the election.  Upon returning to the election commission office, the voter will sign an affidavit and a copy of the voter’s photo ID will be made to be reviewed by the counting board.

If you are a registered voter and do not have a government-issued photo ID, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security will provide you with a photo ID at no charge.  You may obtain a free photo ID to vote from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security at a driver service center.  In order to obtain this ID, you must provide:

    • Proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate);
    • Two proofs of Tennessee residency (such as a voter registration card, utility bill, vehicle registration/title or bank statement); and
    • If your name differs from that on your primary ID, proof of the changed name (such as certified marriage certificate, divorce decree, certified court order, etc.)

It seems to me that as a nation we must do more to make sure that our elections are decided by the votes of American citizens and a reasonable, uniform, verifiable and free form of voter ID is necessary to insure fraud free elections. Look at the map of the states and only a few red states have strict photo ID laws. Then look at the huge number of states with no voter ID to vote such as California, Nevada, Oregon, Illinois, New York and many more. What are your thoughts about this situation?

 

 

 

The Case For and Against The Shelby County School System Education Suit

Monday, November 14th, 2016

November 14, 2016

The Case For and Against The Shelby County School System Education Suit

 

I have reviewed the Shelby County School System (SCS) complaint and the answer by the State against the suit. Also I have reviewed the case brought by Hamilton County and several other Tennessee counties. Here are the essentials.

SCS claims that the State and the Defendants have breached their duties to provide a free, adequate and equitable education arising under the Tennessee Constitution and Tennessee statute.

The Defendants responds that “with regard to their duties and responsibilities and duties, the applicable Tennessee law and constitutional provisions speak for themselves.” The constitution says the following.

The state of Tennessee recognizes the inherent value of education and encourages its support. The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance, support and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools.

The SCS then goes on to a list of what they call “Relevant Facts”.

They point out that the SCS has made drastic cuts because of a lack of funding and that this lack of funding has directly impacted the SCS system’s ability to provide all of its students with a free, adequate and equitable education pursuant to the Tennessee Constitution and Tennessee statute.

The complaint goes on to list of job cuts caused by funding cuts. They list that their students are mainly African-American, Hispanic and Asian-Americans. They also complain that there are students of non-U.S. origin  and students with disabilities. Also they complain that schools in the District have extremely high poverty rates.

The SCS case is mainly based on their opinion that the State must provide sufficient money per the Basic Education Program (BEP) to guarantee all Tennessee children their constitutionally mandated outcomes.

 

General Overview of the BEP

  • The funds generated by the BEP are what the state has defined as sufficient to provide a basic level of education for Tennessee students. This basic level of funding includes both a state share of the BEP and a local share of the BEP.
  • The BEP has three major categories (instruction, classroom, and non-classroom), each made up of separate components related to the basic needs of students, teachers, and administrators within a school system.
  • Student enrollment (average daily membership) is the primary driver of funds generated by the BEP.
  • There are 45 BEP components most of which are based on student enrollment (ADM). For example, students per teacher, assistant principals per school, or dollars per student for textbooks.
  • Unit cost adjustments (salary, health benefits, insurance) are essential to maintaining a similar level of funding from year to year, due to inflation. For example, in 2006 over 100 million new state dollars were required to maintain full funding of the BEP.
  • The funds generated by the BEP are divided into state and local shares for each of the three major categories (instructional, classroom, non-classroom).
  • The state and local share for each school system is based on an equalization formula that is applied to the BEP. This equalization formula is the primary factor in determining how much of the BEP is supported by the state vs. the local district.
  • The equalization formula is driven primarily by property values and sales tax, applied at a county level. For example, the state and local equalization shares for County System A would be the exact same state and local shares for City System A, within the same county
  • All local school systems are free to raise additional education dollars beyond the funds generated by the BEP.

 

Let’s face it. Education and family are the keys to life success. However there is no guaranteed outcome. The children from educated and wealthier families have a built in advantage. However I know of many instances where these children have blown their advantage and ended up without success or happiness. Our recent election has pointed out the problem we have with the influx and the obligation of educating children of illegal immigrants. We have an obligation to educate them but it obviously drains the available resources.

My opinion is that we need to stick to the basics. Teach children to READ, WRITE AND ADD/SUBTRACT. Give the parents the option to send their children to public, charter, private or religious schools using our education taxes as long as they all meet the state educational standards. But we cannot turn over our taxing authority to local school boards. They must compete with other educational venues and let the winners be those schools that produce the best results.

 

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.

Open Records At Shelby County Schools

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

October 3, 2016

 

Open Records At Shelby County Schools

If there is one issue that consistently defines politicians nationally it is the desire to cover up and deny past and present indiscretions. Tax returns, email deletions, favors granted for cash, you name it.

But you say that is the national politicians but it does not happen locally. Well we have had our share locally but open records and transparency is still less than perfect. Just recently it has been in the news that certain athletes’ at Trezevant High School have been aided in cheating on academic tests in order to keep them eligible for sports. It is still under investigation but reports from teachers talk about the good players being taken to a separate testing room and return with a very good grade. Hopefully, Dorsey Hopson will give a full report in the very near future.

Sadly I have a report on my efforts to inform the public on the legal costs of the Shelby County School System (SCS) lawsuit against the state demanding that school boards across the state be able to set the tax rate in order to adequately fund education which they claim is mandated by the Tennessee Constitution. In September I asked for an update on the total spent to date on this lawsuit. I got an email answer saying that they would respond by October 15th. Then I got another email saying that they needed a copy of my driver’s license. I responded and now I got the following response.

I would like to point out that the City of Memphis, the MLGW, Shelby County and other organizations respond electronically but not the SCS system. They want me to mail a check, wait until the check clears, then they will probably demand that I drive to the office to pick up the documents.  This is their policy of open records. It is foot dragging, purposely following the exact state open records law, in order to make open records more difficult.

I ask for your help on this important issue. The policy should be that if the documents are available in electronic format (word, pdf, etc) the request should be answered electronically without cost as the City of Memphis and Shelby County do. I am asking you, my readers, to email the SCS board and Superintendent Dobson and ask them to implement this policy.  We need to let them know that open, prompt and free electronic response to open records requests is critical to public support and trust. Below is a list of email addresses. Thanks for your help.

BYERSK@scsk12.org, superintendent@scsk12.org, CALDWELLCG@scsk12.org, JONEST@scsk12.org, LOVES1@scsk12.org, WOODSKD@scsk12.org, mccormicks@scsk12.org, avantsk@scsk12.org, BIBBSMC@scsk12.org, orgelwe@scsk12.org, KERNELLM@scsk12.org