City panel pushes ahead on study of consolidation with county

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis city council committee took a step forward Tuesday toward exploring the possibility of consolidating city and Shelby County governments.

Proponents believe consolidation could help grow the area’s economy, saying companies that want to grow and invest here want to deal with one voice, not two governments. 

Tuesday, a council committee voted to form another committee to make recommendations to see whether a charter commission should be formed.

This charter commission, made up of various leaders and experts then explores the ideas of consolidation. Ultimately the decision comes down to the voters.

It’s an issue that has a lot of opinions.

Memphis City Councilwoman Jamita Swearengen told fellow council members in the Memphis City Council Personnel and Governmental Affairs Committee there are other things they should be worried about besides government consolidation, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, blight and jobs.

Councilman Chase Carlisle, who is pushing for a charter commission to explore the possibility of consolidation, argued some kind of action has to happen.  

“Eventually something dramatic has got to change in the way that we do things in the city of Memphis so that all of those issues that you just brought up don’t continue to happen,” Carlisle said. “The status quo for citizens is something that they can’t take either and I’m not saying consolidation is the answer. I’m bringing it to this body as an option.”

The council committee voted to create a committee to make recommendations to as to whether or not to form a charter commission.

That commission, made up of those with diverse economic and political backgrounds would get together with experts and legal advisors. 

There would also be community engagement before it ultimately would be place on a ballot before voters. 

Full council still needs to vote on forming the committee. 

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