A Viewer’s Guide to Watching the Memphis City Council

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 23, 2020 7:47 PM CT | Published: March 23, 2020 7:47 PM CT

Editor’s note: Due to the serious public health implications associated with COVID-19, The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed.

Memphis City Council meetings have been online for enough years that the council’s website has archives of digitally recorded council sessions going back to 2007.

However, when the council gathers virtually Tuesday, March 24 – all from remote locations outside of City Hall – it will be a first for the 13-member body. A council member or two attending committee sessions via conference call has been a regular feature of council life for years, but this is different.

Memphis City Council goes online only with Tuesday meeting

Council chairwoman Patrice Robinson originally intended to have meetings with council members present physically but the audience limited in size. Then the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on COVID-19 changed from discouraging gatherings of 50 or more to discouraging gatherings of 10 or more.

“I have more than 10 members on the council,” Robinson said last week. “We are working through the math.”

<strong>Patrice Robinson</strong>

Patrice Robinson

Meanwhile in Nashville, Tennessee legislators were working on temporary amendments to the state’s Open Meetings Law, which without changes would have required an in-person meeting open to the public.

Even though the nonprofit Tennessee Coalition for Open Government worked with the legislators, the House and Senate each passed different versions of amendments and could not reconcile their differences.

That prompted Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee to act by executive order.

The council has a relatively short agenda Tuesday of 23 items and committee sessions that begin at 1:45 p.m., a late start for committees that normally begin at 8:30 a.m. on the twice-a-month council days at City Hall.

A guide to how city government works

Here is the link to the council’s streaming coverage. It is the same system the council has been using for about 13 years. But expect a different layout with no council members at City Hall to anchor the proceedings.

You need an agenda to see the documents for each agenda item. You find both at the link in the previous sentence.

Expect Robinson to make sure council members identify themselves. And if you don’t know the council members, here are their bios from the city’s website, complete with state-required disclosure forms about their finances.

City Hall ceiling leaks force Council chamber closure

We’ll be watching and listening as well and you can get the latest updates @bdriesdm for live coverage of the council session that starts at 3:30 p.m. and updates from committees a bit earlier in the day.

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Memphis City Council

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


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