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Wendi C. Thomas @wendi_c_thomas
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I'll be live tweeting from the Shelby County Commission at @wendi_c_thomas. This is our local government at work. Y'all follow along. #ElectionsMatter
Here's the agenda for this afternoon's meeting.… I'm interested in a few items, including this one re county contracts with minority and women-owned businesses, otherwise known as MWBEs.
Local nonprofit leader Bennie Nelson West speaking against an ordinance that would further regulate short-term rentals, i.e. AirBnBs. You can find all the docs associated with this meeting here:…
Chairwoman Shafer was really generous with letting an AirBnB owner explain her concerns about the ordinance well past her allotted 2 minutes. We'll see how generous she is as the meeting goes on.
Gist of 1st 3 complaints is that these short-term rentals are an important source of income to retirees and these entrepreneurs don't need to be taxed.

Now up: A hotel lobbyist, which (surprise!) supports the ordinance that would tax AirBnB rentals.
Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland clarifies (far more loudly than necessary) that this ordinance would only affect unincorporated Shelby County.
Just walked in: Newly elected Shelby County Commissioner @tamisawyer. She’s greeted warmly by other commissioners. Sawyer is part of a blue wave that shifted local control of government to the left.
They're going on about taxing AirBnB owners, but what's interesting to me is that I'm seeing county attorney Kathryn Pascover for the first time. She's the one who sent a letter to the DOJ asking to end oversight of @ShelbyJuvenile.…
Kevin Kane of Memphis Tourism (formerly Memphis Visitor and Convention Bureau) got a note to Chairman Shafer and she invites him up. Again, let's see how accommodating she is later in the meeting. Also, Kane gave his business address - but citizens have to give their home addy.
Commissioner @hdreaves says the AirBnB tax is a money grab by the tourism bureau because they need money. Someone in the back cheers, Shafer uses her gavel and pointer finger. Says they don't do that here, which is some shade at the city side, where they've had drama.
Shafer tells the sheriff’s deputy here to move into the audience to get ready to toss anyone who makes an outburst.

I feel for this brother who has been sicced on taxpayers.
Commissioner Van Turner speaks on the ordinance, and then shouts out Commissioner Elect @tamisawyer, who is sitting behind her. In a county that's 54 percent black, she'll be the only black woman on the commission.
Back to the requirement that public speakers have to give their name/address before they can speak before the commission: That's never sat right with me, and now that we know that @CityOfMemphis @MEM_PoliceDept are spying on citizens exercising their 1A rights, I'm really like
I'm not sure what public good is served by requiring people to state publicly where they live. I can articulate what the risks are - police surveillance or justified fears of police surveillance and threats to the speakers' personal safety.
Is this required by law?
Now up is the ordinance that I'm interested in - it's passed before I could share the link. Ordinance creates a committee that will review MWBE contracts. It includes a spot for the industry org that's sued repeatedly to end MWBE programs.
This is the ordinance that governs the MWBE consultant review committee and contract compliance committee. The West TN chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors has sued repeatedly to keep minority/white women business from getting more county contracts.
W TN ABC is "A group of white men and women are claiming they were discriminated against by Shelby County government. The group of contractors said a program meant to be inclusive of African-Americans in government work is unconstitutional."…
Now get this: A 2016 Shelby County disparity study found that 88% of county contracts went to companies owned by WHITE MEN.

But these white folks claim they've been discriminated against.

What would fair treatment look like to them? If they got 100% of contracts?
"Those estimates and the report show 88.3 percent of all prime contract dollars from Shelby County government went to white male contractors with 5.8 percent going to African-America contractors and 5.1 percent to white women contractors."…
Chairwoman Shafer keeps reminding her colleagues that the agenda is long tonight - does she have somewhere to be? Maybe there's a good shoe sale somewhere? (Shafer's shoe game is TIGHT. I will give her that. And if there's a sale, I'd appreciate a heads up.)
Back to efforts to make sure that the taxpayers' money isn't used to discriminate against minority-owned businesses, I asked Commissioner Van Turner why the WTNABC would get a seat at this table, if the goal is to increase MWBE spending.
He said - and I suppose it makes sense - that perhaps by bringing them into the process, they'll be part of the solution.

I haven't polled the incoming commissioners, but I sense they're not going to budge on boosting county MWBE spending.
And there's another industry org that's suing Shelby County: Mechanical Contractors Association of Memphis. They too are arguing that white businesses will be discriminated against with county's #MWBE program.…
Who are the members of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Memphis who are suing the Shelby County Commission, claiming that white male-owned businesses be discriminated against under the county's MWBE program?

Glad you asked. Here's a directory.…
Interestingly, one member of the Mechanical Contractors Association is Tri-State Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning, an Asian-owned business. Not sure why you'd belong to an org that is trying to keep minority biz like yours from getting more county contracts.
Often, when we talk about these lawsuits by majority-white organizations, we don't say name the PEOPLE who are suing to maintain the status quo.
Let's name some names.
Phillip Austein of Austein Mechanical Contractors
John Jerkins of CS3, Inc.
Damon McGroom of Damon-Marcus Co.
Donni Holley and Richard Pearce of D P &H
Greg Pegram of Findley & Pegram Company
Mike W. Golding of Golding Mechanical Services
Glyn Graves and Elizabeth Graves of Mechanical Specialty
John B. Rendall of Metro Mechanical Contractors
C. Hulon White of Mid-South Plumbing & Heating
Wes Thornburg of Morgan & Thornburg
Steve Nance of Nance Mechanical Services
Mike Gross of Sibley Solutions
John Sauceir of Temperature Inc.
Nathan Dixon of Trane Company-Mid South District
Nickey Shaw, Jr. of Tri-State Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning
W.A. Soefker, III of W.A. Soefker & Son
Brad Bartlett of Walker-J-Walker, Inc.
Don White of White Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors, Inc.

These are the members of the org suing Shelby County to stop its program to spend more $ w/minority and white women businesses.
And again, EIGHTY-EIGHT PERCENT of county contracts go to businesses owned by white men. But the Mechanical Contractors Association of Memphis, whose members are listed on their website, believes plans to boost MWBE spending discriminates against white men.
OK, I just looked up and Shafer is trying to add an item re EDGE board that would change who can fire the EDGE executive director. Commissioner Willie Brooks complains they don't even have a copy of this item. She's rushing to get this on the agenda.
7-4 motion to add this item to the agenda. I still don't know exactly what it is - I think it gives the EDGE board the power to hire and fire the @EcoGrowthEngine executive director. Conservatives have been angling to get control of EDGE for a minute.
Commissioner Basar opposes adding this item to the agenda, thinks the new mayor/commission should be able to decide this, especially if it is such a small item, as Shafer has labeled it.
Commissioner Van Turner discloses (again) that his law firm has done work for EDGE and he's again recusing himself.
OK, Commissioner Terry Roland just smiled at me. Y'all know we go together.
Re EDGE board: Unless there's more scrutiny of who gets appointed to the @EcoGrowthEngine board, IDK if you want to give the EDGE board hiring/firing power. Shafer's item is sent back to committee. I still don't know exactly what it is.
Citizen comment: Pearl Walker representing the Memphis, Raise Your Expectations group with the results of a 2-question poll taken in her very popular and very active group.
Walker wants a copy of a county attorney's position re the EDGE board (what specifically, IDK). County attorney Pascover says these positions aren't public records. Shafer asks if attny could provide something they could show the public.
Here's what I don't understand. Shafer got her colleagues to vote to add an item to the agenda - an item that they hadn't gotten a copy of. She said that she'd directed staff to get them a copy but... What's the rush?
One of the co-chairs of Mayor Elect @LeeHarrisfor901 transition committee notes that if passed, this item would strip some of the mayor's power over EDGE. And now it's clear what the rush is.
So some backstory: @MemphisChamber and others have been gunning for more control of @EcoGrowthEngine, where the ED Reid Dulberger is committed to maintaining minority and women business enterprises (MWBE) requirements in local tax incentives.
Right now, if a company wants a PILOT (tax incentive) in Shelby County, it has to commit to spending a certain percentage with businesses owned by people of color and white women.

The Chamber thinks those requirements keep the county from being competitive.
@MemphisChamber made a presentation to the last Shelby County Commission committee meeting (also a last-minute add to the agenda, if I remember correctly - see a pattern?) noting that no peer city has MWBE reqs.
Here’s the EDGE agenda item Shafer tried to introduced even though other commissioners hadn’t even seen it. It got kicked to committee.
One of the peer cities, including to this Chamber-commissioned study: Birmingham, which is about a third of the size of Memphis. Higher poverty rate, lower median household income and lower median home value.…
One of the peer cities, including to this Chamber-commissioned study: Birmingham, which is about a third of the size of Memphis. Higher poverty rate, lower median household income and lower median home value.…
Another peer city: Indianapolis. Much larger population, higher median income, higher median home value and far lower poverty rate.…
Another peer city: Dallas. Again, far larger population, higher median income, far higher median home value and far lower poverty rate.…
So these may be peer cities, but Memphis is unique. And I have yet to see proof that but for the MWBE requirement ALONE, there are companies that would have relocated here.
Are there really companies out there that say: "If you make us spend any money with black-owned businesses in a majority-black county where disparity study after disparity study has shown that white male-owned companies get virtually all of the contracts, we ain't coming"?
It's interesting to me that Shafer is super concerned about making sure commissioners speak into the mic, that public commenters state their name/address into the record, but she has no qualms trying to get votes on late agenda items commissioners haven't even seen.
Late-add agenda item: To get audits of certain trustee's (and other county offices) accounts in advance of new elected officials coming into office. Introduced by Commissioners Eddie Jones and Van Turner.
Roland just quipped that any deficit would have shown up in the budget - but maybe the county trustee used that to pay down the county debt. Backstory: County Trustee @DCLenoir beat Roland for GOP mayor primary; @LeeHarrisfor901 beat Lenoir badly.
Here’s the item. IDK what the backstory is here, but these countywide offices were all won by Democrats. Dems clearly want the new officeholders to come in with a clean slate/no leftover mess from Republicans who held these offices/may be smarting from the shellacking.
Taking a step back: On the proposed resolution that would strip the county mayor of some authority over EDGE: County Commissioner Mark @GermantownMarkB, who is also on @LeeHarrisfor901 transition committee, also thinks any changes should wait until the new mayor takes office.
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