County commission still debating charter - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

County commission still debating charter

(WMC-TV) – Just when the end seemed in sight for Shelby County redistricting, the battle took a new turn. Monday, commissioners said the vote on the latest redistricting map threatens the sanctity of the Shelby County charter.

The redistricting battle is starting to look like a hydra and now it has a new head: state law versus the Shelby County charter.

State law says redistricting can pass with seven votes while the county charter says it needs nine.

Out of dozens of maps considered, the map with the most support has just seven votes.

"Time is of the essence," said Shelby County Commissioner Wyatt Bunker. "That's why I'm asking to add it in now."

Bunker added an item to Monday's agenda to demand the attorney representing the commission in redistricting fight for a super majority vote to pass the new map.

"We all took an oath to defend the charter and to protect the charter," said Shelby County Commissioner Brent Taylor.

"Yes, we all took an oath, but we also took an oath to defend the laws of the State of Tennessee as well," said Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy.

Commissioner Henri Brooks took issue with the attorney representing the commission, Ronald Krelstein, who believes state law trumps county law.

"He can put the motion before the court, but he needs to represent the commission that's paying him," she said.

Brooks also said the 13, single-member district map in question, 2J, weakens the African-American vote.

"I will ask all my other members who represent African-American constituents to do the same because this shortchanges the constituents who put you in office," she said.

Commissioner Terry Roland warned Chairman Sydney Chism how the commission had seven votes to censure the two a few weeks back.

"You know what happened to you a few weeks ago," Roland asked. "If this seven had been there, we would have been gone."

Meanwhile, private attorney Keith Kyles addressed the commission about why he filed an injunction Monday to protect the charter.

"We've got to be careful when things are just so easily changed," said Kyles.

Krelstein said the issue is moot because the court already plans to rule on the state versus county conflict.

In the end, the commissioners voted unanimously not to change the charter. They want to protect the super-majority rule where nine votes are needed to change the charter.

Either way, the judge is looking at Map 2J and can adopt it, ask the commissioners to start over or choose another map.

His ruling is expected in mid-May.

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