Weekly Update


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Unless you signed up for our Weekly Update just, well, this week, you probably know that public safety is our No. 1 priority. It’s the topic we spend the most time discussing here, and it’s the topic that you repeatedly tell us is atop your list, too.

A couple of things happened this week that could jeopardize public safety, so I want to tell you about them.

First, the City Council is debating the future of Beale Street Bucks. That's a program by which the Downtown Memphis Commission, which manages Beale Street for the city, charges $10 admission to the entertainment district to help reduce overcrowding on certain busy nights. In exchange, the customer gets $8 in Beale Street Bucks to spend at bars and restaurants. (The other $2 pays for private security.)

This was implemented last summer after a rash of troubling incidents that made Beale less than safe.

Since then, Beale merchants have noted no negative incidents and the Memphis Police Department reports crime fell by 30 percent. Nearly all of the merchants accept Beale Street Bucks, and they report business has increased as a result.

Simply put, it’s a proven program that has made Beale Street safer. Why would we want to take that away?

Furthermore, a safer Beale Street means fewer officers there and more patrolling your neighborhoods. Some have raised concerns about closing the street, yet I don’t hear those concerns when we close Riverside Drive during Memphis in May or South Main during River Arts Fest. And Beale Street Bucks is usually only active for a five-hour period on a Saturday night/Sunday morning -- or, about four percent of the time the street is open and active.

It’s a no-brainer.

Second, some council members have expressed concern about the suspension of DROP -- the Deferred Retirement Option Program. There’s a lot of government-ese involved in defining DROP, so I’ll make it simple: It’s a program that allows retirement-age employees to announce they’re leaving up to three years in advance. This program helps us plan for succession.

We’re proposing a temporary freeze of the DROP. That would encourage command staff and senior leaders of MPD to stay in place, thus not prompting large-scale turnover. For reference, nine of MPD’s 20 senior leaders are currently in DROP. I understand concern among rank-and-file officers about promotions -- so rest assured that such promotions are still included in our 2017-18 budget proposal.

We’re at the beginning of a three-year plan to rebuild MPD. Fortunately, we’re seeing good early results. This proposed DROP freeze is a critical cog in that wheel -- if it is unsuccessful, so many of the other items we’re making headway on could suffer, too. As a result, we’d have fewer officers on our streets, which is the exact opposite of what we all want.

These two items will receive further discussion, so I wanted to elevate them in your mind and explain them today.

Legislative victories: The Tennessee General Assembly adjourned this week, and we enjoyed some success with the items we pursued in our legislative agenda. I plan to devote more space to this topic in next week’s email, so be on the lookout.

Saving your money on my travel: Channel 13 ran a story this week examining my travel as your mayor. I’m glad the topic came up, as our office has spent much less than the prior administration and I’m always looking to be a good steward of your dollars.

It was briefly mentioned, but I wanted to make sure you understand this: The previous administration spent an average of $27,302 on travel in its last four full fiscal years. This mayor's office spent $10,173 in 2015-16 (half of which was under our administration) and has spent $11,253 thus far in 2016-17.

Plans tonight?: I know you share my appreciation for our first responders, so I wanted to let you know about an opportunity tonight to show that appreciation. OR Nurses Nationwide, which is a locally-based healthcare staffing business, is hosting a concert for first responders at Levitt Shell at 7:30 p.m. The “Fearless First” concert will honor nurses, police, firefighters and EMTs. The Stax Music Academy Alumni Band will perform, admission is free and food trucks will be there, too.

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