Voters in Nashville and Memphis are heading to the polls on August 4 to decide on five amendments to their cities’ charters.
Memphis voters will decide on one charter amendment. If passed, the Memphis measure would increase the term limits of the city council and mayor to three 4-year terms rather than the current two 4-year term limit, allowing them a maximum length in office of 12 years. In 2018, Memphis voters rejected a similar proposal, Ordinance No. 5676, which would have increased the term limits as well. It was defeated by a margin of 60.14% against to 39.86% in favor.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Councilman Martavius Jones support the measure, arguing that another term would allow them to continue their progress and learn more about the mechanics of the offices they hold. Mayor Strickland said, “If the referendum passes, I will run for a third term. Our team has improved city services, and although we have implemented changes that have improved Memphis, there is more to be done and more to fight to achieve.” Michael Nelson, a political analyst for the Memphis-based Action News 5, called the measure a power grab by Memphis officeholders desiring to keep their positions.
Nashville voters will decide on four charter amendments. Charter Amendment 1 would change the number of signatures required for an initiated charter amendment from 10% of votes at the last general election to 10% of registered voters. This would increase the number of required signatures for proposed charter amendments to qualify for the ballot. Additionally, it defines the duties of the Charter Revision Commission, which must review all proposed charter amendments. Metro Councilmember Bob Mendes supports the measure. He said it’s a solution to reduce “litigation costs and uncertainty related to referendums in Nashville.”
Nashville Charter Amendment 2 would change the physical qualifications for police officers on the Metro Nashville Police. The qualifications are currently based on Army and Navy requirements. MNPD Member Michael Vaughn characterizes them as outdated because the police force is “getting away from being so militaristic.” The Metro Civil Service Commission would designate new standards if the amendment passes.
Nashville Charter Amendment 3 would establish a metropolitan board of health to oversee the metro public health department. It would set new guidelines for who must sit on the board of health, namely, “one doctor, one mental health expert, one nurse, two other medical professionals, and two non-medical professionals.” The chief medical director position would be renamed the director of health. It also would remove the existing requirement for the director of health to be a medical doctor.
Nashville Charter Amendment 4 establishes a city Department of Transportation and a director of transportation in the charter. The department was created a year ago with the adoption of the Metro Nashville Transportation Plan. It replaced the city’s Department of Public Works.
Early voting has begun and ends on July 30. On election day, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.