Mayor Strickland's Weekly Update


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Part of leading a government that’s committed to excellent service -- and part of our pledge to be transparent -- is acknowledging and addressing when we’ve dropped the ball. To that end, let me explain an ongoing situation.

Due to an increase in the demand to repair or replace garbage carts that exceeded our backup stock, we’ve been backlogged in those repairs and replacements for a few weeks now. That resulted in some understandably inconvenient situations for about 1,200 customers.

That’s an unacceptable level of service from city government, and it is my fault.

The buck stops at my desk. I take full responsibility.

So here’s what we’re going to do: A shipment of new garbage carts is due to arrive by the middle of next week. I’ve authorized Solid Waste Management to distribute them as soon as possible, working overtime and weekends.

Moving forward, Solid Waste Management is going to keep a reserve supply of 2,000 carts on hand so that this situation doesn’t repeat itself. And I’m going to give this extra attention in the coming weeks and months, too, to make sure we’re delivering the best level of service to you.

If you’ve been affected by this, I apologize. If you haven’t been affected by this, I still apologize. That’s because the level of service we provide to each and every one of you is important to all of you. You need to know that we care about a customer-focused government, and I hope this note tells you that we do.

Meanwhile, it’s been another busy week at City Hall -- aren’t they all? So let’s just finish this week’s email as a lightning round:

A serious problem: It was an eventful Tuesday at City Council, so it’s understandable that the news media and I didn’t immediately share some statistics that I think are jarring. So let’s make sure you’re aware of them today.

It has to do with false alarms, and the personnel and service costs to Memphis Fire and Memphis Police in responding to them. In the past three years, approximately 95 percent of alarm calls to MPD have been deemed false. Through July 31 of this year, it’s looking like 97 percent are false.

Yes, those are real numbers.

Factor in the cost of MPD personnel, and that means we’re spending about $1.5 million a year in taxpayer money to deal with this challenge. And at Memphis Fire, about 12 percent of its runs turn out to be for false alarms.

I’m working with MPD, MFD and the City Council to find solutions, but I wanted you to know today just how large of an impact this issue has on our city’s resources.

Working with the president: I’ve long looked up to President Jimmy Carter, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to volunteer Wednesday morning on the Habitat for Humanity Carter Work Project in North Memphis. I was part of a crew that installed doors on a new house. As tired as I was when my shift was over, I was even more amazed at President Carter’s work ethic.

On behalf of our city, thanks for what you’ve done for Memphis this week, President Carter and Habitat!

Nice to meet you, Rip Rapson: The Kresge Foundation is focusing some of its important efforts on Memphis, and I was honored to get to meet privately with its leader, Rip Rapson, earlier this week. We discussed my priorities and the needs of our city, and I’m eager for a strong working relationship with Kresge and Rip moving forward.

Here's the text of a speech Rip gave at an event shortly after we met.

Transparency: We’ve collected some documents and data that give a better look at what we’re doing at City Hall and posted them here. It’s just a start at what I hope will be a resource to help you hold us accountable. Please let us know what else you’d like to see there.

An important commemoration: The Tennessee Women’s Suffrage Monument was unveiled today in Nashville. While I could not make it due to a scheduling conflict, I’m proud that my wife, Melyne, spoke on the city’s behalf. I want to thank my friend and Memphian Paula Casey, who has worked tirelessly to see this day happen.

Thanks, Commercial Appeal readers!: You voted me “Best Local Politician” in our daily newspaper’s annual Memphis Most balloting. I only hope I can continue to do the work that makes you proud.

Excited about Wiseacre: There’s work yet to be done, but I was grateful to collaborate with the City Council -- particularly Chairman Kemp Conrad and District 4 representative Jamita Swearengen -- on approving the lease terms for a potential move of the Wiseacre Brewing Company’s operations to the old Mid-South Coliseum.

I told you that I would support any potential re-use of the coliseum that seemed feasible and did not cost the taxpayers any money, and this fits that pledge. It keeps the building that’s important to so many of our memories, all while being fiscally prudent and enabling a growth industry -- yes, that means new jobs -- in our city.

The Mid-South Coliseum has been vacant for 10 years, and we’ve been talking about its future for even longer than that. I hope you’ll notice that I don’t intend to let these big questions linger in our city for that long. Our momentum is too precious to move slowly.


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