City council adds residency requirement referendum to 2020 ballot

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***UPDATE***

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In the Tuesday night meeting, Memphis City Council members approved adding the residency referendum to the November 2020 ballot.

The referendum will now let the voters decide if the city’s police officers and firefighters must live within 50 miles of the city.

Also at the Tuesday meeting, city council approved an increase in MLGW rates for water and gas starting in July. MLGW asked for a full rate hike, including electricity, to cover replacing old infrastructure that leads to frequent power outages.

Six outgoing council members were also honored for their time in city council.

 

***ORIGINAL STORY***

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis City Council is expected to talk about residency requirements, among other hot-button issues, at its meeting Tuesday afternoon.

An ordinance allowing Memphis police officers and firefighters to live within 50 miles of the city is up for its third and final reading, and there’s already been much debate.

The council is deciding whether to put the issue on a ballot, letting the people of Memphis decide if officers and firefighters need to live in city limits. The debate got heated in the city council public safety committee.

“We can’t just say no, that this is no good, but then come back with no answers,” council member Ford Canale said. “That’s not fair, and that’s not addressing the issue.”

“My contention, colleagues, is that opening this up will not alleviate or substantially reduce our officer shortage,” council member Martavius Jones said.

Jones said it would reduce the tax base.

At one point, some council members made the case a vote should be delayed altogether.

MPD director Mike Rallings was clearly not pleased with what he heard from some on the council.

“I’m speechless,” he said. “My hope is that the people of Memphis do not die on residency.”

Rallings said almost every argument he’s heard, he’s addressed with fact and in a 5 page letter he sent to council members detailing a need for change. He said there’s a crisis, and victims of crime need help.

“When someone calls 911, they do not care where an officer lives, or a firefighter,” Rallings said.

When it comes to the issue of losing tax revenue, he said overtime already crushes tax revenue. He said over the last four years, his department has spent $100 million on overtime due to short staffing.

Rallings said if every single officer lived in the city of Memphis, that’s almost 2,100 police officers, and $7.2 million would be generated.

“Let the voters decide,” Rallings said.

The council would need to make a decision by June for the issue to be on the November ballot.

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