Unified, But Not Equal
“But what if we don’t want to be a part of the city?”
What was supposed to be informational meeting on newly annexed South Cordova began on a treacherous note.
On July 11, residents filled the Bert Ferguson Community Center, upset and ready for answers. During the two hour meeting, city officials attempted to break down the specifics of the recent change, but were drowned out by displeased residents.
When shouts erupted from the crowd regarding Representative Bill Boyd’s light speaking voice into the microphone, he attempted to lighten the mood by saying, “I’ll try to speak up, but this is a City of Memphis Community Center,”. Meeting goers were not amused.
Much to their surprise, on June 29 South Cordova residents learned that they would be annexed, effective July 1. Though the annexation, and its resistance, has been an ongoing battle, residents felt blindsided by the seemingly rushed decision.On November 20, 2001, the Memphis City council voted to annex the area, effective 31 days later. Residents filed a lawsuit in December of 2001 to stop the action, but it was dismissed on June 28, 2011. After filing another lawsuit on July 5, 2011, the Courts dismissed the the second lawsuit on May 16, 2012.
Although by law the annexation was to be implemented Janaury 1, 2012, the delay due to litigation prompted the effective date of July 1, 2012.
Residents questioned why officials did not give some type of warning that change was inevitable. Many, if not most, wanted to know why homeowners were not notified in a timely manner, as it seemed that the city allegedly knew in January that the annexation was going to take place. A warning, a smoke signal–anything other than a three-day notice would have prepared them for the expense of unwillingly becoming a City of Memphis resident.
City Mayor AC Wharton, along with city attorney Allan Wade, noted on several occasions that ultimately the blame for miscommunication lies with their attorney Rick Winchester; who was not in attendance.
According to city officials, tax bills mailed to residents on July 13 are due within 60 days. Homeowner Delois Relliford raised a concern.
“I am a single mother….how am I supposed to come up with $2,000 in 60 days,”
The response from officials? Any payments not remitted by August 31 would be subject to penalty and interest.
South Cordova residents listened, and shouted, intensely as officials attempted to explain various concerns raised: tax bills due in 60 days, residents losing the option to choose garbage service providers, being taxed on assessments that have already occurred, acorn street lights versus “cheap city street lights”.
Hours later, residents did not leave the meeting with a resolution. Most left with the same frustration they arrived with two hours earlier.
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