Weekly Update: Celebrating heroes in Memphis


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This time yesterday afternoon, I wasn’t sure what today’s update would address. I was having a hard time finding a topic, frankly.

Then I went to the Memphis Fire Department’s annual awards ceremony. After just a few minutes of hearing the heroism and outstanding work being honored, I knew we had our topic.

I couldn’t believe some of the stories. Like Firefighter Paramedic Stephen Harris, who found -- and stayed with -- a victim in a burning building while his colleagues put out the fire. Like Firefighter Paramedic Jamie Clements, who, during a severe thunderstorm, guided someone down a ladder from a burning apartment's second-story window. Or like Fire Inspector Clifton Griffin, who helped lead the way to make sure our fire code materials were also printed in Spanish to make sure everyone in our city is safe.

I could go on and on. But last night, like so many others in the nine-plus months since I became your mayor, reminded me of the amazing work being done every day by our city employees. It showed me up close and personal that the word ‘bravery’ isn’t a cliche when it comes to Memphis Fire and Memphis Police.

I challenged you this summer to thank a first responder the next time you see one, and I’ll reiterate that in this email. Today, I say thank you to last night’s award winners. It’s a long list, but we’ve posted it here because we want to recognize each and every one of them -- including a couple of citizens and members of MPD.

Here’s just one narrative that demonstrates how our men and women of MFD and MPD demonstrate heroism in our city daily:

On the afternoon of July 19, 2016, Engine 52 and Emergency Unit 11 responded to a report of a drowning at the Madison Apartments. Engine 52 arrived to find a lifeless child who had been removed from a pool by bystanders. Lieutenant Cortino Williams, Acting Driver Brandon Poindexter, Firefighter Paramedic Marquis Hampton, and Probationary Private Terrance Grant immediately began resuscitative efforts. They were soon joined by Firefighter Paramedic James Bradley and Private Cody Luhrs who seamlessly entered the team, continuing with advanced pre-hospital medical care and transportation to the hospital. Thanks to their dedication to teamwork and mastery of their skills, these individuals returned life to that child, who eventually recovered. For their actions, these individuals are awarded the Life Saving Medal.

I’ll say it again: Thank you.

Documenting our progress: I’m glad to report some continued success with increasing city contracting with minority and women-owned businesses. We closed the 2016 fiscal year with 13.2 percent of city contract spending going to certified MWBE firms -- up from 11.9 percent in the 2015 fiscal year. And through just the first two months of the 2017 fiscal year, we’re already up to 14 percent.

Check out the numbers here.

Understanding the charter amendment: Early voting for the November ballot begins Wednesday, and you may be surprised to learn there’s a city issue on the ballot. It’s a proposed amendment to the city charter, and I won’t lie: It’s complicated to understand.

Here’s the best way I can explain it to you. This amendment essentially fixes some language in the charter dating back to 1939 that deals with how Memphis Light, Gas & Water makes payments (in lieu of paying taxes) to the City of Memphis. An overwhelming portion of MLGW assets and customers are in the City of Memphis. The amendment will allow the City of Memphis to receive a fair allocation of its share of those payments, shares of which are also distributed to Shelby County and the other six municipalities in it. (If you want to learn more, the City Council has assembled some information here.)

The impact could be large, too: It could mean an increase of revenue to the City of Memphis of about $5 million annually, and its adoption will have no impact on your MLGW rates.

Change is coming: You’ll notice some changes to the home page of memphistn.gov in the coming days. Here’s a guide to what’s new.

Spending time in Nashville: The upcoming General Assembly won’t convene until January, so it may seem like an odd time for a trip to visit state legislators and members of Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration. But that’s what special counsel Alan Crone and I did this week.

Why? It’s all about relationships. I relish the opportunity to tell legislators and government officials about our successes and challenges, just as I am eager to learn from them when they describe the same with our state.

The more we can share the story of Memphis with state government, the more both parties benefit. I’m committed to doing more and more of that, as we’ve become intentional about building bridges with the legislature and the administration.

It’s what’s best for Memphis.


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