Archive for October, 2016

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

 

 

The November 8th 2016 Election Ballot

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

October 21, 2016

 

The November 8th 2016 Election Ballot

Early voting locally has already started. Here is the ballot and here is how I am voting on the issues on which I get to vote

United States House of Representatives, District 8  DAVID KUSTOFF

Tennessee House of Representatives, District 83 MARK WHITE

City of Memphis Home Charter Amendment AGAINST THE AMENDMENT. There has been no good argument put forth by the City for this change.

Shelby County Home Rule Charter Amendment NO. The Mayor should have his choice for County Attorney.

As to the horrible Presidential Election, I have studied and prayed over this since the beginning debates of the 17 Republican candidates. I was for Ted Cruz throughout but Trump eventually won. I said then that he would be very vulnerable to candidate research with his past history. That is why the media and democrats were pulling for him to get the nomination.

So what am I going to do? Hillary is unacceptable with her history of corruption. Trump is barely better than Hillary with the possibility that if he wins he will get to appoint one or more Supreme Court justices. Hillary, if elected will destroy the basic constitution with her selections.

Therefore I am going to write in a candidate. I am going to write in EVAN MCMULLIN for President. Evan is on the ballot in many states and is very likely to win the state of Utah over Hillary and Donald. He will not win the Presidential race but there is always 2020. If you decide to do a write in vote, you click on “write in” and then the computer screen allows you to type in the name of the write in candidate. I am voting my conscience. As always, vote your conscience but please vote.

Evan McMullin was born in Provo, Utah on April 2, 1976 to David McMullin, a computer scientist, and Lanie (Bullard) McMullin.

He graduated from Auburn High School in Auburn, Washington, and earned a Bachelor’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy from Brigham Young University (BYU) and a Master’s of Business Administration from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Evan served as a Mormon missionary in Brazil and Volunteer Refugee Resettlement Officer in Amman, Jordan on behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

On September 11th, 2001 Evan was in training at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. He completed his training and repeatedly volunteered for overseas service in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, spearheading counterterrorism and intelligence operations in some of the most dangerous places on earth.

Having completed his CIA service, in 2011, McMullin transitioned to the Investment Banking Division at Goldman Sachs in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he worked with companies in several industries, including technology, energy, consumer goods, biotech, industrials and real estate on capital raising projects and mergers and acquisitions.

In 2013, McMullin joined the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as a senior advisor and later became the chief policy director of the House Republican Conference.

He declared his candidacy for President of the United States on August 8, 2016, saying “In a year where Americans have lost faith in the candidates of both major parties, it’s time for a generation of new leadership to step up. It’s never too late to do the right thing, and America deserves much better than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can offer us. He humbly offers himself as a leader who can give millions of disaffected Americans a better choice for President.”

Slow Walking Open Records Requests

Monday, October 17th, 2016

October 17, 2016

Slow Walking Open Records Requests

 

I know I am a pest about open records but all you have to do is look at what is going on in this terrible upcoming national election to see what politicians do to slow down or deny full open records requests.

Locally I asked to see an update on how much the Shelby County School System has spent on the lawsuit requesting that the local school boards in Tennessee be given the power to set education funding tax rates to suit their own interpretation of what is required for adequate public education. I asked for this information on September 6, 2016 and finally got the information on October 8, 2016. I had to send a copy of my driver’s license (to prove I was a resident of Tennessee) and I had to mail a check for $24.85 and then had to wait for a snail mail return of the documents. Below is the result. Almost $390,000 spent to date.

The real questions are a)where is this lawsuit now, b)what are the chances of success and c)what is the budget for this effort? However under the Tennessee open records law they are not required to answer these questions. They can just keep on spending without any accountability. Another obvious question, why the switch from Lewis Brisbois Bisgard & Smith LLP to Baker Donelson PC?

My wish in this matter is a full and complete open statement as to the state of this lawsuit and the possible future costs. What are your thoughts? After all it is our tax money they are spending.

 

 

Law Firm Date Bill
Lewis Brisbois Bisgard & Smith LLP 4/29/15 2899.50
Lewis Brisbois Bisgard & Smith LLP 5/20/15 19612.5
Lewis Brisbois Bisgard & Smith LLP 6/6/15 18749.70
Lewis Brisbois Bisgard & Smith LLP 7/27/15 65513.65
Lewis Brisbois Bisgard & Smith LLP 8/31/15 75157.15
Lewis Brisbois Bisgard & Smith LLP 9/21/15 66915.36
Lewis Brisbois Bisgard & Smith LLP 10/22/15 68684.78
Lewis Brisbois Bisgard & Smith LLP 11/24/15 18713.00
Lewis Brisbois Bisgard & Smith LLP 12/10/15 4214.20
Lewis Brisbois Bisgard & Smith LLP 2/18/16 3729.14
Baker Donelson PC 4/21/16 5980.28
Baker Donelson PC 5/11/16 19686.50
Baker Donelson PC 6/17/16 5168.00
Baker Donelson PC 7/18/16 2024.50
Baker Donelson PC 8/17/16 12827.65
Total Spent to August 2016 $389,875.91

 

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