Proposal For Memphis City Contractors To Hire Felons

(Memphis) A controversial idea from a Memphis city councilman has lots of people talking.

It would require city contractors working with the city of Memphis to hire felons and the hard to employ.

Lee Harris hopes to bring his idea to a vote before city council.

Harris represents North Memphis and Frayser and he says his constituents want to see an anti-crime program and a job a program and this ordinance would be both.

While in prison for 19 years, CSO Norvell says he saw people come in and out.

“You have a lot of them come back because they couldn’t find a job.”

He’s a fan of Harris’ idea.

“We should use our City spending as a positive force in the community,” said Harris.

Harris plans to ask the Memphis City Council to mandate contractors hired by the City to use ten percent of that city money to hire people who normally have trouble finding jobs.

“The categories are the long-term unemployed, people living deep poverty who need a job opportunity, ex-felons and people who participate in City-endorsed job training programs.”

He says, if passed, the ordinance would be in place for three years, at a time when the City plans to spend millions on a sewer project that could put people to work.

Harris says the ordinance would apply to any project costing the City $100,000 or more.

“As we renovate sewers throughout the City of Memphis,  let’s do something about this hard to place population.”

“I think it’s unnecessary,” said a local construction worker.

Some construction workers say contractors already try to do that, “Contractors don’t usually look at the background, they just want people to work.”

Others say veterans should be at the top of Harris’ list.

“Veterans need jobs. Ex-cons need jobs,” said Norvell.  “It would help. It would help a lot.”

Harris says veterans could be added to the list.

He is still taking public feedback and plans to introduce the ordinance in late January or early February.

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