2019 Platform

Redistricting: 13 or More Single Member Districts

The city council we elect this year will redraw the city council districts in 2022.  Super districts favor wealthy candidates, and, currently, 25% of our city chooses 50% of the super district representatives.

Call to Action:

  • Eliminate super districts and create 13 or more single member districts.

$40,000 Taxpayer Dollars Wasted!

City council voted to and wasted $40,000 of taxpayer funds on a failed misinformation campaign against instant runoff voting.

Call to Action:

  • Immediately propose an ordinance requiring any “educational campaigns” on local referendums to be opinion neutral. Any such educational campaigns should require 10 votes from the city council.
  • Reduce city council salary by at least $10,000 annually to pay back taxpayers for wasted funds.

Fight Blight!

During my 2015 race, I knocked on all of the doors in Binghampton, and resident after resident told me about blight problems that exist in the neighborhood. Some parents were afraid of their children walking by nearby yards because the grass was so tall that someone could be hiding. We spend so much on development in tourism districts, admittedly much of it with state dollars, but we do not spend enough on our hardest hit communities. That being said, I very much appreciate the Univ. of Memphis law school clinic, for fighting blight through environmental court, and Mid-South Peace and Justice Director, Brad Watkins, for fighting to see revenue collected from banks that foreclose on properties and then avoid paying taxes on them.

Call to Action:

  • First and foremost, I believe we should go after the banks and other large companies/conglomerates, who buy up blighted properties but do not fix them or pay the taxes owed on them.
  • As councilman, I would propose we offer a tax abatement to property owners who can show they are removing blight from their property. This abatement would likely be limited to 3 years, assuming the property remains up to code, and it would be done using the money collected from the tax collections on bank/business-owned blighted properties.
  • The primary target for the above program would be geared towards blighted properties within 300 yards of a Shelby County School, and it would expand out as the program receives more funding.

Support Instant Runoff voting

Memphis voters overwhelmingly voted in support of instant runoff voting in 2008 and 2018, yet, scared incumbents have continually fought against it, including my opponent. Runoffs cost the city roughly $800,000 per every four years, depending on how many runoffs occur in a particular local election year ($1,000,000 every four years according to the 2008 fiscal impact note). The lower turnout in runoffs means we elect our representation in a less democratic manner.

Call to Action:

  • City Council and their 14th member, Allan Wade, need to let it go and support the will of the voters by supporting the implementation of IRV. This would eliminate the need for an extra election, and the result would be a more representative city government.
  • As your councilman, I would immediately call for the city of Memphis to adopt policy guidance as requested by Shelby County Election Commission Administrator Linda Phillips.

Strengthen the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB)

The current city council has failed to support CLERB. It is not being allowed to function the way it needs to in order to be effective. My opponent was assigned to be the CLERB city council liaison; however he failed to attend most meetings.

Call to Action:

  • Subpoena power needs to be exercised by the Memphis City Council when CLERB requests it, and CLERB itself needs to be strengthened since the current administration has failed to allow the system to work under the current ordinance. The May 10th, 2018 letter from CLERB to the mayor and city council lays out options on how to make these improvements, and it should be heeded. In order to bring our community and police closer together, we need a stronger CLERB.
  • Stricter body cam policies need to be implemented to prevent the cameras from being left off during incidents between the police and civilians.
  • Internal affairs is a conflict of interest within its own inception. Self-regulation does not work. As councilman, I would call for the elimination of internal affairs, and I would call to put the funding towards strengthening CLERB, assuming the votes existed to give CLERB the authority to properly replace internal affairs.

Neighborhood Voice

Too often, neighborhoods and their associations want to be a part of the conversation regarding development projects in their area, but they are out funded and strong-armed into development projects.

I am fortunate to have the advice and guidance of Mary Wilder and other neighborhood leaders on this issue.

Call to Action

  • As councilman, I would call for an ordinance that would require developers proposing plans to consult with neighborhood associations. If an agreement cannot be made, my plan would require a super majority vote by the local Land Use Control Board in order to approve the development. This would not prevent most development in the city, but it would allow neighborhoods to have more of a voice.
  • Currently, there is no planning commission and the “planned development” route is used to circumvent the meeting requirements. All developments should have to go through public engagement.
  • Memphis Office of Planning and Development should provide easy-to-understand information so that all residents can comprehend how proposed developments will affect their community. Not every neighborhood association has the organization and the resources to fight back when they disagree with a proposed project.

Animal Services

My family and I have very different political views, but one issue area we all agree on is animal welfare. I grew up with dogs, Sampson and The Rock, and my father and both sets of grandparents had/have cats (Maxi was the main cat I grew up with). Last year, I rescued and neutered Buddy the cat after he showed up to my house with a massive wound on his chest/neck area. Buddy’s surgery cost me around $1,000 I did not have, but when he let out a big meow and fell into my lap post-surgery, I knew it was worth every penny. I have a soft spot for the pets in our community because they give us selfless love, and they are not in control of their situation and lives as most humans are.

One great thing about living in Memphis (TN is falling behind on good animal protection laws; WE lead the state on effective legislation) is that we have some of the most progressive animal protection laws in the state on the books! We have great spay and neuter legislation, a companion animal care law, a ban on the roadside sale of animals, and a law that prevents ex-felons from owning intact (non-neutered) dogs. We now also have a humane nationally recognized animal services that is receiving grants and winning awards.

Call to Action:

  • Focus on enforcement of existing laws. Most of the list in my 2015 platform was implemented so now the focus is on making sure those laws are enforced.
  • We need to fold our animal control officers into the MPD, and to be responsible for the same response rate as police officers. This could be done with no additional costs to the taxpayer. Our women and men in uniform should not be dealing with animal issues. By making our animal control officers more responsive, we put them at the front of the issues they were hired to deal with, not our 1st responders.

End Predatory Tow Truck Practices

Certain tow truck companies in Memphis have taken advantage of college students and the poor for far too long.

Call to Action:

  • Strengthen consumer protections against the towing and booting of vehicles, and require tow truck companies to train their drivers to only tow cars when signs are posted as required by the current ordinance.

2015 Platform (Still Applies!)

Lower Memphians’ Property Taxes

We have the highest property tax in the state. In a city, where we are trying to pull people back into the city center, this is unacceptable.

Call to Action

  • As your councilman, I will call for a tax on parking garages, and EVERY dollar collected from this tax will go towards lowering your property taxes. Too many people drive on our streets and use our services without paying for them. This will change that.

Choose Memphis

The City of Memphis gives out a lot of contracts. When an outside business bids significantly lower than a local option can meet, we need to take advantage of the savings. However, when there’s little to no difference between estimates, we should reinvest our money back into our city by selecting a Memphis based business.

Call to Action

  • I will call for a local preference when it comes to city contracts. Let’s keep our jobs and our money with our businesses.

City County Consolidation

I know we’ve had this fight before, but that was when schools were involved. Now that they aren’t, we have more reason than ever to end wasteful spending on dual government, which, many times, provides the same services twice.

Call to Action

  • I will call for a vote to put consolidation back on the ballot. The last time this was attempted, it was estimated that this would save taxpayers $30 million dollars per year.

Crime and Protecting Our First Responders

In the aftermath of several nationally recognized incidents, our police force is constantly under attack. We need more officers, not less, and we need to make sure they are properly compensated for risking their lives for our safety. That being said, these incidents have caused a breakdown in trust between our first responders and the public, which is why I was the first person in Memphis to call for body cameras on all police officers. They protect the police, they protect the public, and they protect taxpayers’ dollars.

Call to Action

  • I will call for undoing cuts to police and fire pension and health benefits. They put their lives on the line for us, and, because of this, they deserve a better deal than most of us receive.
  • I will call for the proper implementation of body cameras so that they successfully achieve the goal of protecting everyone and rebuilding trust.
  • I am already calling for a stronger Citizen Law Enforcement Review Board, which will allow more communication between police leadership and the public. This is another step in rebuilding that trust.

Better use of MPD Spending

MPD takes up 40% of the city budget. Because of this, we need to make sure those resources are properly used. Too often, our well and expensively-trained officers are sent out to check on fender benders, animal control calls, where animal control does not properly respond, and other calls that they are too qualified to deal with.

Call to Action

  • I will call for the reinstatement of the police service technician (PST) program, and I will call to greatly expand it. These officers cost less to train, and the program is a great way to attract new talent and give them the experience they need. (Update: This was done after 2015).
  • Decriminalize and deprioritize marijuana: Why are we sending our 1st responders out to arrest, jail, and prosecute people over a plant safer than alcohol, medically legal in over half of the country, and recreationally legal in four states and our nation’s capital? It costs money to do this, and we should cite and fine people instead of tarnishing their records over a substance less deadly than nutmeg. Let’s raise revenue, not lose it. (Update: In 2016, I started a petition, which gathered over 1,100 signatures, and successfully lobbied city council to pass decriminalization. I saved the legislation by informing council staff, when council members attempted to raise the fine above $50, which would have been unconstitutional under the Tennessee Constitution. Unfortunately, state actors, who claim to support small government, voted to take away local governments’ ability to decriminalize cannabis. That being said, deprioritization may still be worth exploring, though I would say it is already in practice in Memphis because MPD has bigger problems to deal with.)

Education

While the City of Memphis no longer has a school system, city government can still help keep our streets and students safe.

Call to Action

  • I will call for all schools, which currently do not have proper walkways and traffic signs, to install them. Grahamwood, on Summer, is an example of where this needs to be done.
  1. Proper placement of signs is important too. Right outside of Newberry Elementary, there is an “end school zone” speed reduction sign. This should be moved further since it is encouraging people to speed back up right as they pass the school.
  2. Another example is the corner of Greer and Carnes, where we need a 4-way stop to protect our residents.
  • I will call for speed bumps in front of schools, where they do not currently exist.
  • I will call for more crossing guards, and I will call for the additional crossing guards to come from our expanded PST program. An active voter also suggested possibly allowing ROTC college students to participate in this program in order to gain experience. So-called “mob attacks” have made residents scared to even go to their own neighborhood grocery store. A bigger community presence outside of our schools would be a good way to monitor this issue.
  • I will advocate for more speed bumps in the University of Memphis area, where speeding and irresponsible driving are a concern, along with drivers and pedestrians who may have had too much to drink.

Memphis Beautiful: Attract new residents and tourists

Perception: My grandfather moved here in 1970 with my grandmother, my father, and my uncle. He likes to reminisce about how beautiful Memphis was then. Unfortunately, flight from the center city left blight in its path, but our city is on the rebound. Perception is reality. If we want this core of the city to rise, we have to take several steps to change our city’s infrastructure and appearance. The following are some ideas to implement this change:

Blight

  • Currently, code enforcement is tasked with tearing down 1,500 abandoned houses each year, yet they are only tearing down 800. Abandoned houses and blight lower the property values of all of the properties around them and they attract nuisances that make our neighborhoods less safe. As your councilman, I will constantly stay on code enforcement to make sure they are meeting their yearly goals. I will work with the district attorney to identify areas that are particularly problematic with respect to illegal activity and make them a priority. (NOTE: This was written in 2015 so these numbers (1,500/800) are no longer accurate).

Code Enforcement

  • Memphis has plenty of ordinances on the books to make and keep our city beautiful. Unfortunately, enforcement of these ordinances, which are supposed to make sure people keep their yards cut and their houses in order, have not been properly enforced. We should see this as not only an opportunity to improve the appearance and property values of our city, but also as a way to generate revenue. I will propose an ordinance, which will pay retired police officers and firefighters, among others, a stipend to check on a designated area on a biweekly basis. The first time a violation is noticed, the resident will receive a notice, and she or he will be given a chance to rectify the problem. If the issue is not resolved in a timely manner, then the resident will receive a fine which, when paid, will go to fund more code enforcement efforts.

Activating the TN Clean Neighborhoods Act

  • This state legislation, which only applies to certain large cities in TN, can be enacted by our city council on a first reading. If activated, it would allow the city to shift money away from contractors to community and neighborhood organizations, when it comes to mowing the grass and removing trash from blighted properties. These organizations have a vested interest in cleaning up their neighborhoods (not just a profit motive) and the potential to empower their communities by doing so.

Congestion and Parking

  • As Memphis expands, parking and congestion will become an increasingly frustrating issue unless we address it now. Our neighbors near Overton Square and Cooper Young have experienced this first hand. As your city councilman, I would facilitate parking by insisting that new developments accurately account for occupant and visitor parking on-site, so we do not use neighborhood streets as de facto parking lots.

Bike Lanes

  • In a sprawling city like Memphis, we should encourage, not discourage, alternative methods of transportation such as bikes to cut down on traffic congestion and encourage healthy modes of travel. 
Where it is not too costly, I would like to see safe lanes throughout the city connecting parks, roads, and destinations. When implemented correctly, bike lanes have the ability to create more parking spaces, protect bicycle commuters, and encourage alternative transportation.

Greensward

  • Memphis’ Overton Park is a resource that many residents and tourists enjoy. I’m also proud to say that Memphis has one of the best zoos in the country. Unfortunately, the zoo’s popularity outstripped its parking, forcing some to park on Overton Park’s historic Greensward. Overton Park is a space for people and nature, so it should not be used for parking. As your councilman, I will encourage the zoo to re-stripe its parking spaces for efficiency and the building of a parking garage that would not disrupt the Greensward or Old Forest.

Removing Homeless Shelter Nightly Fee

  • Memphis is the only city that I am aware of without a no-charge shelter for the homeless. I want to remove fees for shelters, which will in turn discourage pan handling. I also want to explore using unused city buildings as potential shelters to the extent that it is needed.

Panhandling

  • The Bridge: the Memphis Street Paper is a wonderful organization that discourages panhandling by encouraging homeless people to sell newspapers, which are produced with Rhodes students, for income as opposed to asking for charity. I am proud to serve on its board, and I hope that we can discourage panhandling by empowering our homeless population through the Bridge and other nonprofits that provide them with the means to obtain income on their own without resorting to panhandling.

Roads

  • We pay taxes to receive a societal benefit. With as high as our property taxes are, the disrepair of our roads is simply unacceptable. As your city councilman, I would fight to repair potholes on major and neighborhood roads, and I would also push for more speed bumps where citizens are concerned about speeding on neighborhood roads.

MATA

  • While some buses move on major routes/loops, we could set up mini-hubs to support smaller routes, which would make our public transportation system more accessible. If done properly, it would make it possible for us to allow the county school system to drop its bus contracts and give MATA the ability to run the school routes at ⅓ of the current cost or less.
  • Memphis weather is unpredictable, yet many bus stops do not have protection from the weather. I would work to remedy that by placing rain shelters along busy stops.
  • Pushing MATA later weekend route times could discourage dangerous and reckless driving late at night, especially as other transportation policies emerge making buses more accessed and preferred.
  • As your city councilman, I will work to increase and continue MATA ridership however possible. Bus riders are doing our city and our environment a service by promoting and supporting public transportation.