By Erica R. Williams
Shelby County Commission approved an ordinance requiring them to pay their employees at least $15 an hour. The order was approved on final reading at the county commission meeting, Monday.
Although a similar resolution was passed last year, this recent legislation ensured that it be added to the county’s code of ordinances.
The ordinance passed with 10 votes. Commissioner Amber Mills abstained, while Commissioner Brandon Morrison did not vote. Commissioner Mickell Lowery was not present for the meeting.
After the ordinance passing, Mayor Harris released a statement on Twitter saying, “We have 200,000 residents living in poverty in Shelby County. The best solution to poverty is to pay a living wage. I am proud that Shelby County is doing its part.”
The district is still calculating the proposed changes for the potential raises.
As a result of the ordinance, the commission also approved a resolution that asks Shelby County Schools to conduct a salary study of their employees who make less than $15 an hour. In doing so, they would consider an employee’s experience to determine if a raise is warranted. That resolution was passed in a 7-5 vote.
“I found out there are over 3,100 Shelby County Schools employees right now ranging from substitute teacher to all the way down,” Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr. said in support of the study. “How could someone in good conscience say to someone with a bachelor’s degree and a clean record that they’re making less than other people who don’t have those credentials.”
The salary study is not required for SCS, but a suggestion by the commission.
The commission is preparing to beef up their podcasts and marketing efforts. During Monday’s meeting the group also approved a resolution to hire Kudzukian LLC, a local small business for podcast assistance. The contract for $109,800 also includes social media and marketing services in addition to the podcast.
Only one commissioner, Mick Wright voted “no” on the resolution. He mentioned that he launched a podcast from his cell phone and it didn’t cost him any money.
“I think we can do better for the price, for me it’s not a matter of should we or shouldn’t we do it, but why does it have to cost like $2,000 dollars per hour,” Wright challenged.
Per the contract, Kudzukian would be paid more than $9,000 per month to produce two podcasts, “The Chairman’s Perspective” and “Commission in Action 2.0.”
“We are trying to reach our constituents within the county, especially for those who can’t get off work, who can’t take time off from raising their families to come down to see us,” said outgoing Commission Chairman, Van Turner. “They can pull up the podcast, pull up Commission 2.0 and see what’s going on.”
Turner currently hosts the Chairman’s Perspective, a podcast that discusses what’s happening throughout Shelby County and provides recaps on commission meetings. Commission 2.0 will allow viewers to hear meetings through a podcast format. Currently, meetings are already streamed live online.
“Our meetings are already online. They’re already on radio. Why are we spending this much to repackage it?” Commissioner Wright asked.
Kudzukian owner Larry Robinson argued that the quality of his company’s work is worth the price tag.
“We really work with businesses and government entities to make sure they have a very high-end product,” Robinson told the commission.
As part of the contract, Kudzukian is required to produce quality reports to the commission, showing how the funds are being utilized.
The commission also voted to change how they will name public facilities moving forward. The amendment requires a means for public input before the commission votes on names.
This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender