MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Earlier this week, Memphis City Councilman Ed Ford Jr. said he wants to charge for motor vehicle inspections. He also wants people who travel into the city at least two times a week to get their cars inspected too. Ford says he's getting nothing but good comments from people in Memphis about the plan, and so he's moving forward.
Councilman Ford says he's been working on this plan for four months. He's got a couple of legal opinions from lawyers and the Environmental Protection Agency that say Memphis can inspect vehicles from Crittenden County, DeSoto County, or suburban Shelby County for emissions. So, he is moving ahead with this plan.
The week has been loaded with verbal emissions. It seems as though the people this would affect the most are outraged over the idea. Ford says he's getting reactions as well.
"The people that I've talked to in Memphis and a few Shelby Countians have no problem with it at all, especially if it is a seven dollar fee, which is like 58 cents a month."
Fifty-eight cents a month almost sounds like a bargain. That is, until you realize that relations between people who live in the City of Memphis and people who live in Shelby County are bad right now. The school merger fight hasn't helped things.
So when a city councilman says he wants to charge people who drive into the city twice a week seven bucks to get a vehicle emissions test, it lights a short hot fuse to many county folks. Folks like former City Court Judge Vicki L. Green of Millington, who had a lot to say earlier this week.
"If they cite me for it, I will sue them for it. I just want you to know, if might as well be on notice, there will be a lawsuit. If they hit my tag and bring me into court, I will file suit on them."
Ford says he saw the story and he heard what Vicki had to say. He's not worried. People in smoggy Crittenden, DeSoto and Shelby counties need to be worried though.
He said, "The Environmental Protection Agency gave an opinion and it supersedes state and local law when it said the city would be obligated to anybody who's within that area to place them on that vehicle inspection list."
Earlier this week, Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland of Millington sent a letter to City Council Chairman Bill Morrison urging all council members to vote against the Ford plan, or he'd go to suburban leaders and urge them to start their own emissions programs and target Memphis drivers.
Ford said, "I read the letter, but at the same time, he mentioned that we should so some things about our budget. I've been working on this for four months and that's exactly what I've been doing."
Ford says he heard the people in the suburbs say they didn't like the plan. But the people he's heard from in the city support it, he says. Now they're working out how to enforce it with either red light cameras or license plate scanners or something else.
"What we want to do is find the best solution possible when and if this is implemented. We don't want to exhaust any fiscal resources to where we're not recouping the 2.7 million dollars for vehicle inspection or we're not recouping the money it would take to lower the air quality."
Ford tried to charge folks for auto inspections last year, but the idea failed on a six to six vote. It takes seven to win, and this time Ford's feeling like a winner.