"We're not asking for it to be fair, just less unfair."
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton sent a letter to several members of the Shelby County Commission stating his disappointment that Shelby County officials have agreed to allow the state to assume responsibility for emissions testing, but only Memphis residents will be tested and required to pay an estimated $10 fee for testing.
It's an arrangement that Mayor Wharton and members of the Memphis City Council deem unfair.
"That people in the county will not have to pay even though we all need the benefit of clean air," said Councilman Shea Flinn "It can't be defended as anything except for extremely inequitable and unfair."
The topic came up for discussion at Wednesday's Shelby County Commission meeting. Commissioner Terry Roland was not sent a copy of Wharton's letter, but he says was not too pleased about it.
"Don't do this back door letter writing thing. What he is doing is trying taking advantage of the amount of commissioners that are on the commission that represent the city of Memphis. That's not fair to my district," Commissioner Roland said.
Roland responded to Mayor Wharton's letter with one of his own, drawing attention to this sentence that was in the Mayor's letter:
"For the last 30 years, Memphis residents have paid for better air quality and enhanced economic development to the benefit of Shelby County residents," the mayor said.
"If Mayor Wharton thought it was so great or such a bad thing, why didn't he do something about it when he was county mayor?," Commissioner Roland questioned. "When he was county mayor he could have tried to do something about it then. Now he sends letters to the commissioners who live inside the city of Memphis. That's trying to use leverage and that's not right"
Attempts to reach Mayor Wharton for an interview were not immediately responded to.
Councilman Flinn spoke up for the city, saying, "I understand if you live in Germantown and you don't have to pay any fee and you don't want to pay any fee. You don't want to and nobody wants to. But, if we're all going to have to and the problem is Shelby County air then we should all have to and endure the process."
Below is the letter Mayor Wharton sent to the Shelby County Commission March 25, and a response letter from Commissioner Roland:
March 25, 2013
Shelby County Commissioner
160 North Main Street, 4th Floor
Memphis, TN 38103
RE: Emissions Testing
We were extremely disappointed to learn that the State and Shelby County have agreed to allow the State to assume responsibility for emissions testing, but only Memphis residents will be tested and required to pay a fee for the testing. As a community servant representing a district entirely in the City, we know you can clearly see the inequity in this arrangement.
It is not only Memphis that has been cited by the EPA as being in so-called non-attainment status, but all of Shelby County. Yet, for the last 30 years, Memphis residents have paid for better air quality and enhanced economic development to the benefit of Shelby County residents. Curing this inequity is not complicated. The members of the County Commission that represent majority Memphis districts could stand together and require that county residents pay their fair share.
The County could contribute to the cost of emissions testing; assess an air quality fee to be paid by county residents; or appeal to the State to make the emissions testing program a county-wide program where both Memphis and County residents are treated equitably. In your time on the Commission, you have consistently represented the interests of Memphians.
We ask you to recognize that 42% of the vehicles in Shelby County are registered outside the City, contributing to ozone levels, but not to the cost of emissions testing. We ask you to do right by Memphians and work with the City and the State to create an even-handed approach to improving air quality in our community.
TERRY A. ROLAND
District 4, Position 3
March 26, 2013
To All Municipal Mayors VIA EMAIL
RE: Emissions Testing
Dear Municipal Mayors,
I received the attached copy of a letter Memphis Mayor AC. Wharton sent to County Commissioners that only represent MEMPHIS from a Memphis City Councilman. I believe the intent was to rub my nose in their plan, but instead I'd like to draw your attention to one sentence, ".. for the last 30 years, Memphis residents have paid for better air quality and enhanced economic development to the benefit of Shelby County residents".
If Mayor Wharton felt like this for 30 years why didn't he address the issue when he was the County Mayor? Exactly how did the inspection stations bring enhanced economic development? The citizens of Memphis deserve leadership that is resolved to make their city vibrant, clean and is working as an intricate part of the larger engine that fuels the mid-south, not someone that finds a scapegoat to solve their problems I deal with these types of back door unhanded deals almost on a daily basis. Economic development is the one area that in my humble opinion is not being addressed both in the City of Memphis or Shelby County except for our Chambers of Commerce - and thank the Lord for them! We need to fuel our economy and we won't find the fuel by using underhanded deals. The fuel will come as a partnership with entrepreneurs, the hard working citizens in Shelby County and the outstanding leadership in each municipality, to include Memphis. We all have a vested interest - we are in this together and together we will succeed! I encourage you and your team to stay focused, steadfast and know that I have your back!
District 4, Position 3