The Commercial Appeal

Memphis de-annexation based on facts, not emotion

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The administra­tion of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is recommendi­ng an orderly look at possibly de-annexing seven areas from Memphis beginning in 2021.

The big question is, once a plan is solidified, will that be enough to assuage state legislator­s hell bent on passing legislatio­n that would allow residents to break away from a city, regardless of the impact on the municipali­ty.

We have supported the concept of deannexati­on, especially in light of the Memphis’ loss of population density, which has resulted in a diminishin­g tax base, but not in diminishin­g costs to provide city services throughout Memphis’ some 300 square miles.

That is a key considerat­ion in the context of the city’s lingering financial challenges.

We also urged de-annexation supporters to do the logical thing and give cities a voice in the matter. Any de-annexation legislatio­n should be based on hard research, not emotion. Memphis is preparing the hard evidence.

The city administra­tion Thursday recommende­d studying seven areas “ripe” for voluntary de-annexation, including the densely populated South Cordova and Southwind-Windyke neighborho­ods, whose residents have made it clear they did not want to be annexed by the city.

The other study areas are the vacant Riverbotto­ms area of Southwest Memphis, a flood plain near the Mississipp­i River; Frayser West, an area along Highway 51 that includes three residents and the Memphis Police Academy; part of Raleigh on either side of New Allen and north of Ridgemont; the Eads area south of U.S. 64 from Cobb Road west to the Shelby County line; the area between Rocky Point Road and Forest Hill north of Walnut Grove.

Many of those areas are sparsely populated, some with little infrastruc­ture in place.

Memphis Chief Operations Officer Doug McGowen said the potential deannexati­ons could cost the city 10,672 residents and an estimated $7.6 million in net annual revenue. He told members of the Strategic Footprint Review Task Force the administra­tion is recommendi­ng no de-annexation­s before 2021 because bonding agencies take a “dim view” of sudden financial changes.

The 11-member bipartisan task force was created by the Memphis City Council last April to look into the feasibilit­y of voluntary de-annexation. Task force members want to have solid numbers, facts and data to present to state lawmakers this legislatio­n session if a deannexati­on push is renewed.

The de-annexation proposal passed in the House last session, but failed in the Senate, partly because the leaders of some cities began to the worry that a bill that was generally believed to be targeted at Memphis and Chattanoog­a also could impact their cities.

After Strickland outlined the recommenda­tions to lawmakers in Nashville last week, Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, said he saw “no reason” for the legislatur­e to approve de-annexation legislatio­n if the city de-annexes South Cordova and Southwind-Windyke, which are in his district.

What does that tell you about the legislatur­e once again getting into Memphis’ business, and not in a good way?

Residents across Tennessee and the nation generally have objected to being annexed, regardless of the size of the city doing the annexing.

As far as the residents of South Cordova and Southwind-Windyke are concerned, they want out now. Strickland has not rejected the idea of allowing them to leave.

Still before that actually becomes a reality, de-annexation needs a full, thorough study about what it would mean for Memphis. And, legislator­s would be wise, based on what happened last year, to give any proposed de-annexation bills a full vetting on how it would impact cities across the state.

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