Monday, April 8, 2024

Will Failure of Landlord-Tenant Bill Keep Suburban Membership off the MLGW Board?


A law that would facilitate the identification and location of property owners, being referred to here as the Landlord-Tenant Bill (HB34), and MLGW's decision to allow the County and its suburbs two voting seats on its Board appear, on the surface, to be separate matters. MLGW has now coupled these two items in an effort to pressure a key Shelby County Representative into supporting the Landlord-Tenant Bill.

The Landlord-Tenant Bill 

Memphis, Shelby County, MLGW, and Germantown, among others, seek legislation that would enable them to police property infractions more effectively. Memphis in particular has had an especially difficult time locating property owners.  HB34, if enacted, would require landlords in both Shelby and Davidson County to furnish Code Enforcement a physical address and phone number.

MLGW decided to connect HB34 and potential suburban representation on its Board at the urging of Joe B. Kent. Mr. Kent, initially in his Just My Memphis Blog, and later in the "Citizens to be Heard" portion of MLGW's March 20 Board meeting, argued that MLGW should not grant the additional voting representation to the suburbs until the legislature enacted the Landlord-Tenant Bill.  

This is where House Rep. Kevin Vaughan, a real estate developer from Collierville, whose constituency includes the northeastern part of Germantown as well as Collierville, enters the picture. Representative Vaughan is the Chair of the House Commerce Committee. Its subcommittee (on which Representative Vaughan also serves), decided on March 12 not to move HB34 forward. Mr. Kent, believing strongly that Memphis and Shelby County badly need HB34, feels the suburbs should do more to convince Representative Vaughan to get the bill passed. The suburbs' desire for voting seats should be, in Mr. Kent's view, the carrot by which MLGW induces the suburbs to cajole Representative Vaughan into making better use of his powerful position. 

Mr. Kent's reason for wanting the legislature to enact HB34 is as simple as it is convincing: Landlords must be made more aware of their responsibility to keep their communities clean. Heightened landlord awareness can only be achieved through effective code enforcement. That enforcement, in turn, is dependent upon the enforcers' ability to identify and locate property owners.
The property owner/location issues faced by Germantown are admittedly not of the same order of magnitude as those faced by Memphis. Nevertheless, the passage of HB34 
would also directly benefit Germantown when dealing with violations by out-of-town property holders. Moreover, a cleaner Memphis is good for all its suburbs and the entire county. The City of Germantown obviously agrees, as signified by its inclusion of HB34 in the list of bills that it wants the legislature to enact this year. This list was sent to all Shelby County legislators, including Representative Vaughan. Passing HB34 is clearly a no-brainer.

Suburban representation on MLGW's Board is likewise a no-brainer. Indeed, Mayor Palazzolo has been lobbying for such representation for years (see this Commercial Appeal article). 
The City of Germantown and its citizens, as well as Collierville and its citizens should communicate to Representative Vaughan their support of HB34, and strongly urge him to use his power get the bill passed.His contact information may be found here

His email address: 

For the precise location of Representative Vaughan's constituency, see the map below.


Additionally, you may view in Ballotpedia an expandable map that identifies the particular streets included within Representative Vaughan's district. As you can see, Representative Vaughan represents citizens who, for the most part, reside east of Forest Hill Road and north of Poplar Pike.  

Due to Joe Kent's presentation during the Citizens' to be Heard portion of its March 20 meeting, MLGW's Board tabled the motion to allow Shelby County and its suburbs two voting seats. (The video of the March 20 meeting can be found here. Mr. Kent speaks at 6:03 (-46:35). He stated that Representative Vaughan needs to "figure this out.")  

MLGW's Board met again on April 3; however, the motion to grant the suburbs two voting seats was not reintroduced. Further action by the Board on the suburbs' motion is dependent, it would appear, on the enactment of HB34.

I sent the folliwng email to Representative Vaughan this past Thursday, April 4:,

Dear Representative Vaughan,

You may be aware by now that in its recent meeting, MLGW refused to hear an agenda item that would have added voting suburban membership to its Board. Joe B. Kent, in remarks during the “Citizens to Be Heard” portion of the MLGW meeting, spoke in favor of MLGW’s tabling the agenda item until the Tennessee House of Representatives first passed HB34, a bill that would allow the City of Memphis, the suburbs, and Shelby County to more easily locate out-of-town landlords for purposes of citing them for public nuisance and other violations. Mr. Kent, emphasizing your role as the Chair of the House Commerce Committee, placed the blame squarely on you for the subcommittee’s failure to pass HB34. Here is Mr. Kent’s blog on this matter: Just My Memphis

As you are undoubtedly aware, the City of Germantown, MLGW, the City of Memphis, and Shelby County all support HB34. I write a blog, "Shining a Light on Germantown", and intend to write about this matter. I would appreciate hearing your side of the story on this issue. What happened to HB34? Did you in fact withhold your support of the bill? If so, why, given the City of Germantown’s support of HB34? Also, please let me know if you support suburban representation on MLGW Board.

Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.

Pauline Lathram , Shining a Light on Germantown  

I have not yet received a reply from Representative Vaughan. I will update this blog post if and when I hear from him.