Mayor Strickland's Weekly Update


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It has not been an easy week in Memphis. Let’s address that from the start.

Early Monday morning, we learned of the terrible fire on Severson Avenue. And Thursday morning, we learned of our 161st homicide, matching the total from all of last year.

I’m not here to dwell on either one of these events. Frankly, I’m not sure if any of my words are adequate to address the losses. I’m only here to remind you, and ask you, to remember all those who have lost loved ones in your prayers and in your thoughts.

Partnering to make Memphis better: As we work to move forward and make Memphis a better place, we know that we do it with constraints on city government’s resources. But that doesn’t stop us from our work, thanks to what we do with great partners.

Think about it. In Frayser a couple of weeks ago, we highlighted the great work being done with the Frayser Community Development Corporation to rehab some once-blighted homes near a school. In Uptown, we welcomed President Jimmy Carter and worked with Habitat for Humanity to build new homes. And near Mason Temple Tuesday, we highlighted a partnership with the Church of God in Christ to build 77 new affordable, quality townhomes on a now-vacant lot.

This all concerns quality, affordable housing at a time Memphis greatly needs it.

Beyond that, we announced Wednesday a partnership with the Hospitality HUB to offer work to our homeless citizens -- lifting them up with the dignity of work while also tackling the city’s blight and litter issues. (Trust me, you need to know more about this program -- click here.)

I know the word ‘partner’ can get overused in government. But it’s very important. I point out all these partnerships to remind you that while city government can’t solve everything, we can partner with the entire community to work on the issues that face our community.

We don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

Positive sign: When the U.S. Census Bureau released its latest estimates this week, I was encouraged by one particular number: Our poverty rate in 2015 decreased to 26.2 percent -- down noticeably from the 29.8 percent in 2014. It’s an encouraging sign.

It reminds us, though, that we have work to do. It remains shameful that 26.2 percent of our citizens live below the poverty line. And it is particularly shameful that 43 percent of our children live below the poverty line.

Since we arrived at City Hall on New Year’s Day, we’ve been working our anti-poverty plan. And while these numbers give us an updated picture, they also remind us of the work ahead.

We must also point out, however, that our population fell from 641,946 to 639,139 -- a loss of 2,807 residents. And while this is still an estimate, and as a percentage of the whole it is but a fraction of a fraction, it reminds me of what I’ve long called our No. 1 challenge -- population loss.

Thank a first responder today: I’ll close by revisiting the opening topic, specifically Monday morning’s fire. While our thoughts and prayers remain with the family that’s experiencing unspeakable loss, we should also acknowledge and lift up our first responders who went to the scene. It was a tough reminder of why their jobs are so difficult.

I’ll challenge you, as I did earlier this summer, to thank a Memphis Fire or Memphis Police officer next time you see one. 


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