Tag Archives: Memphis

Memphis Lawmakers Propose Seceding from Tennessee Over Civil War Statue Dispute

After the Tennessee General Assembly voted last Tuesday to strip Memphis of $250,000 worth of funding for an upcoming bicentennial celebration over its decision to remove Confederate Civil War monuments located in the city, state Representative Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) called for the city to secede from the State of Tennessee.

“We are in what I consider an abusive relationship with the State of Tennessee. Maybe it’s time for a conversation about secession. Create a new state, maybe West Tennessee,” Rep. Parkinson told WREG-TV.

He added, “Maybe if the conversation [about secession] is being had, maybe it’ll wake those individuals up who have been taking Davidson and Shelby County for granted.”

“It’s very interesting but yes, it can be done,” said Memphis City Council Chairman Berlin Boyd according to WBIR-TV. “If we became our own state we could control our overall destiny, we could create a state income tax… You have to think about, would we want to be the size of Rhode Island? Or would it be more impactful of a larger portion of West Tennessee?”

While critics have said that separating from the state would completely disconnect the city from funds it receives from state tax coffers, such as the $517 million in funding it received this year for Shelby County schools, Chairman Boyd suggested that a newly-created state could raise its own revenues by legalizing marijuana or allowing casinos.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said that he opposes secession from the state but called the General Assembly’s effort to punish Memphis for removing the Civil War monuments “a little bit of a stick in the eye.”

“We are different in many ways from the rest of the state, and I say that in a very positive way, and I think that we’ve just got to resolve to continue going forward and push the message that we are a very progressive, very growing, very vibrant community that needs the state’s help,” Mayor Luttrell added.

City Council Member Worth Morgan said he opposes the measure and told WMC Action News 5, “I think seceding from the State of Tennessee is an impossible and stupid idea and any time spent researching it is probably a waste.”

While it is legally possible that Memphis could secede from Tennessee, to do so would first require that a majority of Memphis voters approve the concept in a referendum, then the Tennessee General Assembly and U.S. Congress would have to pass legislation allowing it.

Rhodes College Political Science professor Stephen Wirls said that it is unlikely that the state would approve secession. “If they allowed Memphis to go they’re basically inviting every other part of Tennessee that has beef with the state,” he said.

Memphis Creates Task Force to Arrest, Fine Uber and Lyft Drivers

The popular rideshare companies Uber and Lyft have been forced to do battle for the right to do business against overzealous bureaucrats and antiquated livery regulations in cities, counties, and states across the US. A recent dust-up with Virginia regulators ended in victory, as the state backed off its cease and desist order against the innovative start-ups. Rideshare services have quickly become an excellent source of part-time employment for people struggling to find jobs and may be reducing drunk driving fatalities, both of which, it would seem, help politicians meet policy goals.

However, WREG-TV is reporting that Memphis city officials, responding to complaints by local taxi drivers, are focusing their energies on enforcing out-of-date livery regulations that were designed long before the innovative technology behind Uber and Lyft existed, rather than trimming regulations to fit with modern business models. The City of Memphis has issued a cease-and-desist order against the rideshare companies, which Uber and Lyft intend to defy. However, in order to add teeth to the city’s threats, a police task force has reportedly been created to fine and arrest the companies’ drivers.

At issue are permits, vehicle inspections, and the associated fees that the city collects, which are a significant burden for part-time rideshare drivers. Aubrey Howard, chief official at the Memphis Permits department, told WREG-TV, “We are not attempting to curtail commerce. What we want is if they are going to do business here they have to follow the rules.” Reportedly, drivers caught working for Uber and Lyft could be arrested, fined up to $400, and face suspension of their driver’s licenses. “We think sending out a task force will make these companies move a little faster,” said Aubrey Howard at Memphis Permits, who confessed that the industry is evolving and may need updated laws. Memphis’ license administrator characterized the rideshare companies as “bullies.”

Taxi companies in the city currently have to pay for permits, vehicle inspections, and background checks, regulations which do hurt taxi drivers in a time in which rideshare companies are growing in popularity. Uber and Lyft have internal safety policies, which include vehicle inspections and higher insurance standards than the City of Memphis requires.

WREG-TV spoke to a local Uber and Lyft driver named VJ about the issue, who said she would defy the cease-and-desist order, “The letter went to Uber and Lyft.  Not to us. So as far as I’m concerned Memphis hasn’t told me personally anything.” She also indicated that Uber is encouraging drivers to continue working despite the ban, “The only communication I’ve had is from Uber and they say we’ve got your back. They say they’ve been in this rodeo before… If [police] impound my car or ticket me I know I’m covered.”