Face mask resolution, COVID-19 council fund and Tillman Cove on council agenda

By , Daily Memphian Updated: April 28, 2020 9:21 AM CT | Published: April 28, 2020 4:00 AM CT

A plan originally requiring Memphians to wear masks or some kind of face coverings has become a proposal for “strongly encouraging all businesses to require their employees” to wear the scarves or masks.

Memphis City Council member Dr. Jeff Warren

Memphis City Council member Dr. Jeff Warren

The city council will discuss the resolution, by council members Dr. Jeff Warren and Michalyn Easter-Thomas, at a special Tuesday, April 28, executive session.

The online meeting starts at 2 p.m.

Warren, a physician and part of the local COVID-19 task force, proposed during April 21 committee sessions a requirement that all residents wear the coverings. Warren has been a vocal advocate of using masks and face coverings as part of social distancing measures.

Last week, he told The Institute for Public Service Reporting at the University of Memphis that the masks are going to be a part of everyday life for years.

“I’ll have a mask on for the next two to four years,” he said.

However, the council discussion last week included other council members questioning how such a requirement could be enforced by the city.

The council resolution wouldn’t be binding on citizens and is simply a recommendation. Making it more than that would have required it to be an ordinance that would have to pass on three readings.

If such an ordinance was passed, the maximum punishment would be a $50 fine.

The executive session is a meeting of the council as a whole that doesn’t decide matters. A 3:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday of the full council is listed on the council’s website, but there is no agenda posted for the meeting. The matters discussed Tuesday could go to a vote of the full council at the regularly scheduled May 5 council session.

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You can follow the meeting here or get live coverage @bdriesdm.

The other matters the council will discuss Tuesday include a move by council member Martavius Jones to create a council-controlled $6 million emergency relief program for COVID-19 related items.

The funding would come from the $2.6 million the council was to award in grants to community groups and other nonprofits in the fiscal year that begins July 1 and another $3.4 million from the city’s $78 million reserve fund.

To take effect immediately, the entire $6 million amount would come from the city’s reserve, and, in the new fiscal year, the council grants line item would reimburse the reserve fund for what amounts to an advance.

Other council members expressed concern about setting aside the money, given the lower sales tax revenue and other hits the city’s financial position is expected to take from the economic shutdown that is part of the response to the COVID-19 virus.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has estimated the city will be $23 million short of projected revenues in the current fiscal year and as much as $80 million in the red for the new fiscal year.

The council’s grant program was scrapped for the new fiscal year because the virus forced the cancellation of grant workshops and the application period to be considered for the grants.

The council also continues to discuss the city’s sale of property in the Tillman Cove apartment complex in Binghampton for $811,000 to private developers Tillman Redevelopment LP to build multi-family apartment units.

Tillman Cove apartments demolition begins

Binghampton residents discuss impact of Tillman Cove

The limited partnership is an effort by Elmington Capital of Nashville and the Binghampton Community Development Corporation. The combination was one of four proposals in a public request for proposals initiated by the city.

The post-World War II apartment complex is to be renovated and rethought with mixed-use housing that ranges from multi-family apartment units on the Tillman side to single-family homes on the other end of the property that backs up to a subdivision of existing single-family homes.

The apartment units were demolished starting late last year and have been vacant since 2016, forcing the eviction of residents in the complex. That’s when the city intervened.

Council member Chase Carlisle raised concerns about the contract between the city and the developers that he described as ambiguous.

“If they don’t like the way the wind blows, they can terminate the contract and get their escrow back,” Carlisle said. “If something goes wrong or they can’t produce a specific item, unless they are the nicest people under the sun, everything goes to hell. … They could hold this property up in perpetuity as this document is written today.”

City Housing and Community Development director Paul Young said if the developers don’t provide the documents for the due diligence phase of the project before closing, the city can declare a default and the land goes back to the city. Young also agreed to look at a redraft of the language to make it more specific.


Memphis City Council COVID face coverings Jeff Warren Martavius Jones Tillman Cove

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Bill Dries

Bill Dries

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


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