MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Mayor A C Wharton and some Memphis City Council members say Republican state lawmakers from Shelby County are trying to ruin the city.
This year, bills have been filed to let suburbs get schools for free if they start their own school systems, for a casino to be built only in Memphis, and most recently to keep the city from annexing a portion of east Shelby County.
The main legislators behind these bills have been State Senator Mark Norris and State Representative Curry Todd. The mayor and others said they were blindsided by the lawmakers' actions.
If their legislation is approved in Nashville, the city will not be able to annex the Fisherville area east of Memphis. The bill applies only to Memphis.
"We never have any notice of these things," Wharton said. "When you do something that is going to have an adverse impact on somebody, the professional gentlemanly thing to do, the way I was brought up and taught as an attorney would be to said, 'We're getting ready to do this.'"
Senator Norris said he is simply doing what his constituents want. City Councilman Harold Collins doesn't buy it, and that's why he plans to start the annexation process now.
"I don't know if we'd be better off annexing the property, but at least we will have an opportunity to decide for ourselves," he said.
That's their key argument. In 1999, all mayors in Shelby County agreed on the current annexation plan. Now, some Shelby County legislators are saying that it's ok for all the other cities and towns in Tennessee, just not Memphis.
Wharton stated, "I didn't say one word when Collierville annexed. We didn't say one word when Bartlett annexed, because we had an agreement, and it was none of my business. I was not going to change the legal agreement we all entered into."
There's another bill for just Shelby County, which would allow people to vote on whether they wanted to be annexed by Memphis.
Rep. Todd said he introduced the plan because of a lot of calls from people who don't want to be annexed into the city. He said all one needs to do is look at the growth outside the city limits, adding, "People vote with their cars and their feet."
The annexation issue isn't the only thing Memphis City Council members are angry about. They said it's just the latest example of Nashville trying to take power away from the city and put it in the hands of county residents.
Councilman Collins said it's a power play of state legislators trying to tell Memphis how to do things.
"There has been a systematic approach to reduce the influence of the citizens of Memphis, to regulate the growth we are experiencing and control it from the outside."
The biggest change that's happened has been Republican control of the Tennessee House and Senate. A far more conservative legislature means better chances for bills changing annexation laws, school laws, and even things such as allowing a casino to open in Memphis or changing Shelby County fireworks laws.
All are proposals in this legislature, and they would only affect Memphis. Collins calls it nothing more than a slap in the face for the city and its people.
He said, "It's almost like reducing their voting power and voting strength. So, you give 300,000 people the power to control 600,000 people. It's not right."
Collins and Mayor Wharton said they're also doing what their people want them to do. But, the mayor said eventually this will all end up in court where the lawyers will do what their clients want them to do.