Memphis City Council, Shelby County Commission hold joint meeting for first time since 2010

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis City Council members along with Shelby County Commissioners sat together to discuss issues facing greater Memphis on Thursday.

It is uncommon for them to be in the same room together. Those at the meeting said it's the first joint meeting since 2010 as best they can remember.

This is just a collaborative meeting where both bodies can share information and share their perspectives.

An issue that got lots of spirited debate was pre-K.

Memphis City Council members last year indicated their dedication to finding a county-wide funding mechanism for pre K since an $8 million federal grant funding 1,000 seats runs out in 2019. At issue is where the money will come from and who will pay for it.

"Over 40 percent of our children are living in poverty. They don't get the stimulation and support they need at home so pre-K is really important," councilwoman Patrice Robinson said.

"If you look at it as an investment, you make it a priority, I think we have not done that collectively as a community," councilman Martavius Jones said.

Jones said funding could come from raising county taxes, but commissioner Terry Roland had a different idea.

He pointed to $20 million over-budgeted by Shelby County Schools system for charter schools as a possible option.

"If you have $20 million of windfall money, let's use that before we tax the people again," Roland said.

"I don't want to place this on our taxpayers, as an additional fee," Robinson said.

Robinson wants to find an alternative way to pay for the pre-K, but despite how it is funded she said needs-based pre-K is more than a luxury, it is needed in Shelby County.

"Training and education, keep our community educated and lifted up," Robinson said.

Regardless of specific issues or viewpoints, leaders of both bodies say collaborative meetings now appear essential.

"In order to come up with solutions that will benefit not only Memphians but Shelby Countians, we must come up with new missions, and how do we progress, how do we work toward a common goal," City Council Chairman Berlin Boyd said.

"I think honestly our community would do better if we did this more frequently, and I will also say though that I think we will want to do this with every municipality," Commission Chairwoman Heidi Shafer said.

Also up for debate on Thursday were some of the incentives that are offered the lure development to the Mid-South and whether those incentives are really in the best interest of the city and county.

The progress of the Edge Board and possible changes to how it is structured was also discussed at Thursday's meeting.

After the meeting, sub-committees were created for city council members and commissioners to come together and discuss these issues further.

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