Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Mayor, The Council and the 17th Rule of Acquisition-Or-The Dog ate the City's homework

Last night on WREG News Channel 3, Memphis Mayor AC Wharton expressed that he felt the pain of the many lower paid city workers who are NOW being asked to accept a 4.6% cut in their salaries in the coming year.



The Mayor explains that these cuts will be done in lieu of the 12 holiday furlough passed by the Memphis City Council as a sort of humanitarian gesture to avoid hurting worker families during the holiday season.



Here is a link to that story here


There's just one problem with this story.....it's all spin.

Here is the truth...

Back on Jun 21st, the Mayor presented his revised budget to the Members of the Memphis City Council...among other things was a vote to furlough 12 holidays. At the time City Council veteran Joe Brown voiced concerns throughout this affair that the vote and action to do so was improper and illegal as those holiday's were protected by ordinance. In fact here is said ordinance right HERE



Councilman Brown informed the Mayor and the other members of the Council of his doubts about the legality of such a motion..but was ignored and his questions brushed aside...and that is tragic, because now what we have is yet another serious miscalculation made in needless haste by our elected officials..and once again an outright refusal by anyone to admit such mistakes...to the point of being untruthful.



Saddest of all is now we have yet another manufactured crisis that again seeks to cover the carelessness of elected officials on the back and the pocketbooks of lower paid city workers...none of the top earners will be receiving these cuts...no...no...no... salary cuts are for the little people I suppose.



Now..in the coming days you'll hear alot of indignation from elected officials about how "unreasonable" the public sector unions are being...but let's be serious for a moment...



The Unions all negotiated with the administration back in April in good faith...those negotiations are done...now in the Memorandum of Understanding between the city and those unions there is a procedure for situations of fiscal emergency..so that these things can be renegotiated in times of fiscal hardship. The problem is..that procedure requires the city to open up their books to the unions to prove such hardship is real......and the Administration does not want to do that...why?...I don't know and won't speculate..but it really does not matter why.



More to the point...all this bluster about "coming to the table"...is just a ploy to get the Unions to concede to a process outside of their Memorandum of Understanding..thus automatically putting them in a weaker bargaining position.



Alot of Council members are lawyers as are members of the administration...and none of them would ever advise their clients to negotiate outside of a contract or MOU....NEVER....but that's exactly what the Unions are being asked to do here....and the media is allowing this to go on with ZERO scrutiny.



You see what really matters here are two simple questions....IS THE CITY ACTING IN GOOD FAITH WITH IT'S WORKERS?....and....just how many other mistakes have happened and been covered up?



I do so hope that as many of you as possible will join us at City Hall, Tuesday July 5th at 3:30pm as we watch the spin continue.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Passing the buck on HOMELESSNESS pt1

Last week ABC24 ran a story about the ramifications of the Panhandling zones created by the Memphis City Council in April of 2010. You can view that article by clicking on the link HERE

Go ahead...i'll wait.

Now if you have been to this blog before or in anyway know me you will already know that The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center opposed passage of this law a year ago and in turn offered what we saw as a more moral, human and viable alternative. If you would like the back ground you can read about that here and here


...Now my point today is not to rehash the particulars of that debate persay..more to the point... Isn't it odd that when special interest want the Council to pass unconstitutional laws the panhandlers all become "con artists". Yet when we talk about mental health and substance abuse treatment for those who panhandle...all of a sudden they become "homeless" and the buck gets passed to the Mayor's plan to end homelessness?

Mr. Collins with respect is not being truthful here.

In the ABC24 story above it is mentioned that the City Council also voted to commission a special task force authorizing then City Council chair Harold Collins to convene a meeting with mental health, substance abuse and criminal justice shareholders to look at ways of effectively curbing Aggressive panhandling via treatment as opposed to counter productive and EXPENSIVE incarceration and Law Enforcement manpower hours.

Yet this body as the article above shows has never met....

But it's far worse than that..... For one... Mayor Wharton launched his Task force to End Homelessness...the same task force that I and MSPJC staff worked on as members ...MONTHS before the Council even took up the Panhandling issue. True, the media kickoff happened in late April but everyone involved knew that it was in the works and I had gone to early meetings as far back as Jan 2010....

So, Mr Collins assertion that the Mayor announced it just weeks later is misleading...and he was well aware of that..afterall Harold Collins himself is listed as a member of the Mayor's Task force to End Homelessness....tho I never saw him at any of the meetings or events....but in fairness...maybe there's a reasonable explanation for that.

TWO. Last year I met with Mr. Collins several times which his staff can verify and explained to him that the Mayor's plan was speaking to the issue of homelessness..but our initiative with the council was about mental health screening and diversion options for substance abuse for panhandlers arrested at 201 Poplar. At our last conversation..which was in AUGUST 2010, Mr Collins was no longer using the canard of not wanting to duplicate efforts..but at that time was citing slow action on the part of Judges at 201 Poplar as the hold up.

He then tried to pass us off on Councilman Kemp Conrad who at that time had a task force as well...which also was not or may never have met. Never got a clear response on that. Still it matters little as it was Harold Collins...not Kemp Conrad who has the responsibility to oversee this process as Council Chairman as outlined in the original resolution.

Our Alternative plan was seeking to have all "homeless related crimes" panhandling, trespassing, public urination, loitering, climbing on a municipal structure..etc..sent to a single designated division of General Sessions Court so these cases could be handled consistently.

The outlier "con artist" could be consistently prosecuted and those with mental health, addiction or homelessness issues could be diverted into existing services.
Thus saving jail costs and reducing aggressive panhandling in a effective and humane manner.

As Mr. Collins WORKS in the D.A.'s office he knows full well what our intentions were..in fact we presented the council with a power point of our plan..which led to Councilman Joe Brown sponsoring the creation of the Council's task force in the first place. All of this is in the Council record...and that alternative proposal Document we submitted is in the Commercial Appeal article i linked above...


THREE. Even if Councilman Collins is sincere in his belief that this is better handled by the Mayor's task force....which again..I sat on......if he really believes that...then why did he ignore our request for better funding of said plan? So a year down the tubes and only $250.000 in local funding...for homelessness..


So.....Who believes that Councilman Collins is being upfront here?

With all due respect to the man....who like myself is a former graduate of Memphis Catholic...I don't,i'm sorry but I do not believe you are being truthful here.