Dr. Carnita Atwater tells the Memphis City Council why she and others from North Memphis oppose Memphis 3.0. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

The head of a New Chicago advocacy group says she has filed a lawsuit in federal court to prevent the Memphis City Council from going forward with approval of the Memphis 3.0 Comprehensive Plan.

The New Chicago Community Partnership Revitalization CDC and a coalition of organizations filed the lawsuit on Tuesday, according to Carnita Atwater, PhD, and executive director.

Atwater announced the filing, as well as a temporary restraining order, at the Memphis City Council meeting Tuesday, as the council was set to do one of three readings of intentions to go forward with the plan.

The council delayed doing the first reading of the plan, which must be adopted by ordinance and after three readings.

City officials and proponents of the plan say Memphis 3.0 will guide future development but does not make wholesale neighborhood changes.

Atwater on Wednesday said African Americans, many in poor living conditions, are largely left out of the plan.

“We’re filing this lawsuit because the Memphis 3.0 and the Unified Development Code do not have an inclusion clause for African Americans,” Atwater said in a telephone interview with The New Tri-State Defender. “You have no substantial funding in the plan for the African-American community.”

Atwater said the plan only includes $800,000 for improvements that she called, “peanuts.”
The city, said Atwater, has a history of giving the African-American community “the crumbs” from whatever money that is available for city improvements.

Atwood said the plan as drafted violates the “civil, human and constitutional rights” of African-American residents in New Chicago.

Council Vice Chairwoman Patrice Robinson on Wednesday said council members had the item “pulled from the agenda until we get more information about the lawsuit from our attorneys.”

Ursula Madden, chief of communications for the city, said Mayor Jim Strickland would not comment on pending litigation.

Atwater confirmed that she filed the lawsuit pro se – on one’s behalf. She is not a member of the Tennessee Bar Association.

“We are looking for an attorney or possibly a group of attorneys,” Atwater said.