A grassroots effort in Cordova hits a roadblock in their efforts to deannex from Memphis.
State Attorney General Robert Cooper's opinion states that citizens cannot demand a deannexation referendum; only the city legislative body – in this case Memphis – can take that action.
Josh Fox with Cordova's Voice says essentially this does not mean Cordova residents have no voice; they have a voice but through their elected officials and council members.
This latest decision forces the group to now move forward with an altered plan to collect 45,000 signatures from residents for a petition to present to the Memphis City Council in hopes they will add a deannexation referendum to the next election ballot.
Fox says he has reservations that the Memphis City Council will not do what their constituents want to do, instead deciding based on what they want as council members. If that is the case, there is a back-up plan.
"We already have legislators who are ready to change the law to make it where the citizens can do it," says Fox, "In fact, that's what the petitions will be used for: If the city council tells us they're not going to put it on the ballot for us, then we're taking it to the state to use them to change the law, and we've already got representatives ready to file that law for us in January."
State Rep. Steve McManus (R-Cordova) says Cordova residents need to make allies with city council members to help with their deannexation efforts.
McManus adds that deannexation and force annexation are hot topics among legislators in Nashville. He says not just Cordova but also areas near Chattanooga and Knoxville are experiencing annexation issues.
"There's an awful lot of municipalities that are really hurting for money. They're cash cropped. The end result is they're accelerating their annexation push," says McManus, "We are very, very sensitive as legislators to listening to our constituents and try to help them because now we need to give them a bigger voice if they feel it's in their best interest to be annexed."
McManus says Memphis is one of those "cash cropped" cities, adding that in the end the tax revenue from the newly annexed area does not offset the city's cost to provide the area services.
In May, Cordova's Voice took their petition to the Shelby County Election Commission in hopes of putting a deannexation referendum on the next election ballot. Similar to the attorney general's opinion, the election commission said a petition for a referendum must come from the Memphis City Council and not from the citizens.
Cordova's Voice hopes to collect nearly 45,000 signatures for their petition to the Memphis City Council for a deannexation referendum. Fox asks residents to collect 50 signatures in two weeks and turn them into him on June 22 at 9 p.m. at the Cordova Community Center.