Mayor Strickland's Weekly Update


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Understand this from the start: I did not know Officer Verdell Smith. I did not have that privilege.

But I know what he stood for. I know why he served. I know why he was one of our finest.

I know that he cared deeply about our city’s young people. And it wasn’t just lip service. He acted on it. He didn’t just say that we needed intervention -- he intervened. He didn’t just talk about how our young people needed help -- he helped.

Show me more people like Officer Smith, and I’ll show you a better Memphis.

And I know last Saturday night, when evil came down the street, that Officer Smith’s last act was to make sure other people were out of harm’s way.

I’m reminded of what Muhammad Ali said: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”

If that’s the case, Officer Smith’s rent was paid in full.

Today, I attended Officer Smith’s funeral service at Hope Presbyterian Church and the burial at Memorial Park. It was a touching, emotional day that shows us in a very raw way the sacrifice Officer Smith made. And it shows us just how much Memphis comes together.

In this season of hurt, we lean on our common love of our great city -- and our unwavering knowledge that the spirit of Memphis is stronger than anything meant to bring us down.

And, as I said earlier this week, we know that the spirit of Officer Smith is stronger than anything that intends to do us harm. Let us all remember that in the coming days, weeks, months, and years.

And let me issue a specific challenge to every Memphian: Thank a public safety officer the next time you see one. The men and women of Memphis Police and Memphis Fire, along with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and so many other local agencies, deserve to hear it.

Addressing our homicide problem: It’s old news by now, but in case you missed my Monday news conference on the spike in our homicide rate, you can catch up here. In that event, and in the crime plan I ran for office on last summer, I emphasized both the need for strong law enforcement presence and deep, long-term intervention programs. We’re in motion on both fronts.

I said Monday that we would engage the community on intervention strategies, and we took a sizable step in that process Thursday. A group of 50 community leaders gathered at my request at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library to hear from us -- and most importantly, for us to hear from them. It was a valuable meeting with tangible ideas with which we’re moving forward. (You didn’t hear or read about this in the news because we didn’t publicize it. It’s much more important that we get real, constructive, honest dialogue in the room than stage something solely for the TV cameras.)

Passing a budget: You may or may not know this, but passing a budget is easily the most time-consuming process city government tackles each year. It’s the product of months and months of planning, weeks and weeks of preliminary meetings -- and hours, if not days, of final legislative debate.

But Tuesday afternoon, something else happened: The City Council approved operating and capital improvement budgets in under 10 minutes, and with 13-0 votes!

Credit goes to the City Council and to the members of my staff who worked so hard to make that happen. Budget votes have often been the venue for raw, open disagreements between the city’s executive and legislative branches over the years -- disagreements with too many fireworks and too little real work getting done. Instead, my administration prioritized communication with the council at every step of the way. And when there were disagreements, we sat down face-to-face and worked out compromises.

That’s right -- communication and compromise at City Hall.

Thanks again to Chairman Kemp Conrad, Budget Committee Chairman Edmund Ford Jr. and the entire council. You all showed real leadership, and I look forward to applying the same principles to the challenges we tackle as move forward.

As a result of this process, we have a budget that funds our priorities, allowing us to strive to be brilliant at the basics of the services we deliver to you. It’s a budget that spends $6 million more on police, funds two new police recruiting classes, and gives pay increases to our officers. It’s a budget that continues our commitment to fund our pension and be responsible stewards of our financial future. And it’s a budget that allows us to pave more roads and fix more potholes than city government has in many, many years -- if ever.

Town hall meeting: If you’re in City Council District 1 (map), I hope to see you Tuesday night at the Breath of Life Christian Center, 3795 Frayser-Raleigh Road, for a town hall meeting I’ll be holding in partnership with council member Bill Morrison. We’ll take your questions and hear your concerns from 6 to 7:30 p.m.


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