MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Public awareness, or straight up propaganda?
In a surprise vote, Memphis City Council approved the use of taxpayer dollars to educate voters about three ballot issues the council wants passed.
Three council members who did not vote for it were Kemp Conrad, Worth Morgan and Ford Canale.
The Memphis City Council created these referendums and put them on the ballot.
Now, with voting already underway, the council is going to use your tax dollars to explain why they want these referendums approved.
"I am beside myself,” said law professor and instant runoff supporter Steve Mulroy. “I just cannot believe the gall of our elected leaders."
Mulroy is fighting mad the council will use taxpayer money to promote what he says is the council’s own political agenda.
"Especially when those referenda are designed to help it make it easier for them to stay in power longer,” Mulroy said. “It's a clear conflict of interest."
Council Chairman Berlin Boyd says he and his colleagues want to create a public awareness campaign to clear up any confusion about the council's three referenda:
- Extending term limits
- Suspending instant runoff voting
- Repealing instant runoff voting
"Our position is to educate,” Boyd said. “It's primarily to educate."
“You provide information,” said city council attorney Allan Wade. “You don’t try to influence or ask them to vote one way or another.”
The referendum wording has been criticized for being convoluted.
Actress Jennifer Lawrence recently spoke out against repealing Memphis' instant runoff voting.
So the council's mounting a defense in the eleventh hour.
"Our position is... we don’t need outsiders telling us... telling our citizens what’s best for us,” Boyd said.
"Whatever you saw here tonight, if ever there was a need for term limits, it's just been proven right here,” Mulroy said.
So how much of your tax money will be used for this campaign?
Boyd didn’t have a figure yet, although $30,000 to $40,000 is available.